A team of Oregon State University researchers say they have implemented a classroom-based intervention that reduces the amount of violent TV that children watch - by 18 percent among first- through fourth-grade children.  And that's good, they say, because youth violence is a big issue, though not so much as 30 years ago when everyone assumed we would be living out scenarios from either "The Warriors" or "Escape From New York" by now. 

Thanks to effective poison awareness, worries about gunshots are more prevalent, they say, though strangely swimming pools and auto accidents fail to make the list even though they kill a lot more kids than guns.   So we need to take action but there aren't a lot of swimming pool accidents in TV shows - that leaves just violence for concerned scientists to research.

Should children that young be be watching any violent TV, is probably what you are asking?   Well, no, but unfortunately they mean 'violent' television like Bugs Bunny and Superman, which no serial killer in history has ever listed among their influences.    They list those with a rating in an index along with programs like "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" in their appendix.   We all agree that is pretty violent.   They had first graders watching people get impaled by wooden stakes?    Who designed this study, Torquemada?

Obviously, any parent can reduce the violent television being watched by getting rid of the actual violent television programs, and that would include Buffy.  Heck, you can eliminate violent television completely by getting rid of actual televisions, although another study today says violent video games improve vision so you'll need to sacrifice their eyesight for their mental health if you take away all the fun stuff.  

Sharon Rosenkoetter, who co-authored the study with Lawrence Rosenkoetter, retired professor in the Department of Psychology at Oregon State University, and Alan Acock in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, says that research pointing to the impact of violent television shows a need to steer children to "healthier" viewing habits.

Okay, that is common sense, but what do these guys have against Superman?   He fights for truth, justice and the American way (which is in and of itself truth, justice and ... you get the point) but they were pleased that their curriculm reduced the students' identification with 'superheroes' compared to children in a control group.   Not me.

We want to raise children who do not want to  defend the defenseless and right wrongs?  What evil genius came up with that?   It must be one of them evil Republicans academics are always going on about because no social scientist could ever endorse such a crazy notion.   I have spent my whole life making decisions based on a "What Would Thor Do?"  outlook and, sure, that involved a lot of smashing things with a hammer and saying "thou" to my mother, but I turned out okay.

In the upcoming Thor movie, they have failed to cast me.  I think this is a mistake.

"We have a significant body of research now that shows that children who watch violent TV tend to be more violent, to overestimate the threat of crime, and to think that the world is a more dangerous place than it is," she said. "So if there is a connection between violent TV and violent behavior – and research shows that there is – then it is in society's interest to reduce the viewing of violence."

You know what I shut off so my kids don't know what a violent place the world is?  "The Today Show" on NBC.   They should subtitle themselves "the missing children's" show.   Literally just this morning I had to shut it off again so my kids could play with their Thomas The Tank Engine train set without worrying if the Fat Conductor would turn into the Fat Child Abductor.

In their first of three studies, they found a reduction in viewing of violent shows by girls - but not boys - in the intervention group. In the control group, neither gender changed its viewing habits, as you would expect. The second and latest study found an 18 percent reduction in viewing of violent television for both genders, while again nothing changed in the control group. 

Who got to choose which kids were doomed to become homocidal maniacs due to watching "Power Rangers"?  It's too big an issue for me.  So they let teachers do it.  More on that in a bit.

One of the achievements they highlighted was that kids reported identifying less with violent superheroes ("Superman", "Powerpuff Girls", "Power Rangers") and having more critical attitudes about violence on TV after the intervention.   The curriculum did this by highlighting the "pretend" nature of the superheroes actions while extolling the "real" heroes such as police officers and rescue personnel, apparently like the ones in "Cops", "Wildest Police Videos", "Wild Rescues" and "Walker, Texas Ranger", all of which were high on their violence index.  Why not throw an episode of "Dexter" in there and see if that helps kids?

Back to the kids in the study.   Unsurprisingly, the researchers noted that even when they could get teachers to participate (since, thanks to No Child Left Behind, they actually have to teach and can't let their kids spend 15 hours a week watching violent television) a number of permission slips were unreturned by parents.    No kidding.

You know what that means, right?   The kids in this study  already had parents willing to let them be experimented on about watching violent television - which connotes a variety of other possible home living conditions that aren't exactly making them model citizens.  Meanwhile, the teachers most likely to volunteer were the ones most likely to be concerned about violent television watching, which means they may have discussed it with the kids any number of times during the school year, something less likely in the control group.

"Getting children to watch less violent television is crucial," Lawrence Rosenkoetter said. "We compare it to the kids eating junk food versus eating healthy food that makes you grow strong. They really grasp that comparison. We tell them, there is junk TV and nutritious TV, and here is how you tell the difference."

Sure, it's a daily struggle to get kids to eat broccoli but you also let them have some delicious cake once in a while too - life can be enjoyed, just do things in moderation.    Have these researchers seen what people who only eat food from the GNC look like?   Imagine that, except in a kid's brain.   Like anything, you have to use some sense.   Obviously, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" should not be seen by anyone not a teenager.    I know this, you know this, Joss Whedon knows this.

The researchers agree that there is an increasing amount of good television programming for children as well as the bad ones and say children should balance television viewing with other activities.  Presumably not body slamming each other in real life, like they do on "WCW Wrestling", which the kids got to watch too.   

"We ask them questions like 'What could you do instead of sitting in front of the television set?' 'How might you help someone in your neighborhood?' 'Did you ever read the book that suggested that TV show?' " Sharon Rosenkoetter said. "The students come up with really creative answers, and it appears from the data that they are acting on those answers."

What else has been proven to work is having only one TV station you can get.  As a kid in the country, we had a huge antenna in the attic that had to be turned by a very large pipe wrench if you wanted to try and get a different station.  Let me tell you, kids find other things to do when a lousy show is on TV if they have to crawl into an attic to change the channel.

But that's too much like eating broccoli all of the time.   Just  control the remote yourself.  And don't let them watch "Speed Racer", because car crashes kill more kids than violence every year and you don't want them to get crazy ideas about driving backwards on a racetrack.


Their intervention program was the second phase of a three-part study conducted over a four-year period. Their research was funded through $850,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the Northwest Health Foundation.  

The curriculum used in the intervention is called The REViEW Project Curriculum (Reducing Early Violence: Education Works). It was developed by the Rosenkoetters, colleagues, and students, drawing upon earlier work by leaders in this field. The curriculum is available online under Community Outreach at: http://www.hhs.oregonstate.edu/hdfs/hdfs-research


Article: Rosenkoetter, L. I., et al., Television violence: An intervention to reduce its impact on children, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (2009), doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2008.12.019