Child Psychology and Behaviour

Does On-screen Violence Affect your Child?

Ambili S Kartha
3 to 7 years

Created by Ambili S Kartha
Updated on Jan 11, 2021

Does On screen Violence Affect your Child
Reviewed by Expert panel

Technology, if used wisely, can contribute to the healthy development of your  child. Toddlers can learn fast the alphabets, numbers, concepts of shapes, etc. through educational videos and apps. It is found that learning and memorizing will be its best when the information is presented by stimulating different senses. 

In today’s time and age, children and adults are overexposed to on-screens. This can adversely affect the health and behavior of your child. . It is found that on-screen time triples between the ages of one and three years. Several child specialists working in this field have expressed concern about the ill effects of on-screen violence on children. 

According to research conducted in this field, by watching three to four hours of non-educational on-screen per day, children are exposed to 8,000 murders by the time they finish elementary or middle school! This number can increase significantly when we consider several interactive games that sell like hot cakes in the market. 

Is there a relationship between on-screen violence and street violence? Even though we can't say for 100% sure on-screen violence paves the way to street violence, we can't entirely rule out its possibilities.    

Why On-screen Violence Influence Children?

Here is an interesting study on types of on-screen violence (in games and movies) and their influence on children

  • Violence is rewarded: 

In many games and movies, a violent act is rewarded or left unpunished. Many children may take the lack of punishment as a sanction for violence, and reward is the icing of the cake. 

  • Realistically portrayed violence:

Again, many on-screen violent acts are realistically portrayed.  Children are found to be influenced by on-screen violence that is humanly possible. They show the tendency to imitate it. 

  • Aggressive role models and justified violence:

Most of the children look up to characters in on-screen as role models. Children are attracted to a superhuman hero whose violence is portrayed as necessary to save mankind. This justified violence is more likely to be copied. The children, if strongly identify themselves with an aggressive character, are more likely to be aggressive themselves.

  • Excessive violence: 

Excessive exposure to any type of on-screen violence may lead to psychological blunting of normal emotional responses to violent events. Children may find similarities between them and the theme or character and try to imitate that violence in real life.

Effect Of On-screen Violence On 3 To 7 Years Old:

We know children around the age of three have a tendency to follow others. They may imitate their parents or anyone close to them. Likewise, they have a tendency to imitate what they see on on-screen as well.  If your child is exposed to violence in movies or cartoons, it could have a negative impact on him. Did you know that preschool-aged children who are exposed to on-screen violence are more likely to behave aggressively?  Also, many children contract behavioral problems, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, etc. when exposed to on-screen violence. Big children know that real violence causes pain and agony. On the other hand, small children may think violence is painless and sometimes funny. Just like children learn from family and surroundings, they learn both good and bad habits from on-screen as well. Some children learn to fight and start to enjoy bullying when exposed to on-screen violence.  

Effect Of On-screen Violence On 7 To 11 Years Old:

Children of this age group are not only viewing violence. On the other hand, they are actively engaging in a realistic and immersive violent experience. This could negatively influence this age group.  The idea that the worlds in their games are compatible with the current society might cause them to merge their actions as a video game protagonist with their actions in real life. They might experience anger issues or violent urges that are relatively harmless in a child but can develop as they grow. 

Effect Of On-screen Violence On 11 To 16 Years Old:

Video games, internet games, etc. have increased in popularity, and many teenagers are found to spend around 40 hours per week playing these. Most M-rated games are not appropriate for children under 17. The children in this age group are undoubtedly more mature than the younger ones, but they are still children, and the lack of wisdom that comes with youth is more often than not seen in them. A problem with modern media is that – intentionally or not – they encourage inappropriate behavior. This might cause teenagers to view alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and sexual activities as cool and fun at a young age, without stopping to think of the consequences of their actions. Studies prove that teenagers who view sexual content are more likely to engage in it earlier than teenagers who avoid such media. Despite any measures taken to shelter kids from such content, merely watching people smoke and drink on TV can lead to them assuming it is acceptable, which in turn, can lead to substance abuse and other issues. 

What Can Parents Do?

 Nowadays, violence is literally everywhere. It is in video games, movies, books, and music videos. When you turn on the TV news, you will find more news on violence than positive news. It has even marked its place in cartoons and commercials. In short, you can’t completely shield your baby from violence. The child should know the ill effects of violence. Expert’s emphasis, no single factor can turn a nonviolent person to act aggressively. However, excessive exposure to on-screen violence may have a negative effect on children. Being a parent, doubtlessly, we can say you are your child's first line of defense. It's your job to protect your child from the negative effects of on-screen violence and to guide him out of the ill effects. 

Tips For Parents Of 7 years and below: 

  • Always monitor what your child is playing or watching.

  • Try to keep them away from anything that shows physical aggression as they tend to imitate what they see. Fantasy violence is OK. However, violence that could result in death or serious injury should be avoided. 

  • Limit your little ones on-screen time. Set it to a maximum of 20 minutes at a stretch and altogether one hour per day.

  • Introduce the child to educational games and apps and games that are less violent. 

  • Try to sit with the child, and whenever there are situations of bullying or fighting, naturally comment on how bad it is.

  • Let the child watch age-appropriate movies and play age-appropriate games only.

Tips For Parents Of  7 To 11 Years: 

  • Never let the child play games that include inappropriate content such as violence, sex, or glorified tobacco and alcohol consumption. Exposing to these factors at this age will definitely have an adverse effect on the child.  

  • Explain to your child the true consequences of violence. Tell them with an example that violence is never a solution, and what they see in on-screens is unrealistic.

  • Never let the child spend too much time with on-screen violence. As they spend more time on-screen violence, greater will be its impact and influence.

  • Bad language is another thing that the children of this age grasp from these games and movies. Make your child understand that verbal cruelty also is violence. Teach them to use the words sensibly to stand up for themselves 

  • It is important to check out ratings of games and movies before letting the child watch it. Never let them watch online streaming videos. These videos are not rated and may contain nasty kinds of stuff.  

  • No need to restrict the child playing action-hero sword fighting or gunplay as long as there's no bloodsheds. Also, make sure there are no and close-ups of gore or graphic violence.

  • Install computers and TV in a common hall or in a room that has access to all the members of the family. Never let them have a private screen.

Tips For Parents Of  11 To16 Years: 

  • Explore or try to find the details of video and computer games your child asks to buy or they borrow from friends. You can preview the games or movies. 

  • Discuss the ill effects of violence in their presence. You can start the conversations naturally with respect to some news. 

  • Make sure you spend together time watching something positive on TV - something that relaxes and calms you and your children.

  • Make sure your child is not glued in front of the screen, and he or she is finding time to spend time with friends and outdoor games.   

  • Make a strict rule of turning off all screens during family meals and at bedtime. 

  • Keep the screens out of your teen's bedroom during bedtime.

  • Keep the computer in a common area so that you can monitor what they are doing. 

  • Teen's bedroom should be devoid of any screens.

  • Make sure your child knows everything about Internet safety and social media smarts. Teach them the dangers of sharing private information online or sexting. 

This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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