|INSTEAD OF AN INTRODUCTION
Two-year-old James Bulger was killed by 2 ten-year-old boys and afterwards found on a railway line covered with blue paint. Some weeks before the father of one of the boys hired a video called "Child's Play 3" that was lying around at their home. In the film a doll dressed in child's clothes is killed on a railway after being covered with blue paint.
Two American runaways killed a man in a random shooting after watching Oliver Stone's video "Natural Born Killers", that shows 52 violent deaths, more than 20 times.
USA, Colorado; 20th april 1999
Two teenagers at the age of 17 and 18 years executed 14 pupils and 1 teacher, hurt other 24 pupils in the school and admitted afterwards suicide. The teenagers were dressed in black trenchcoats just the some way like the person in "Basketball Diaries" who was played by Leonardo di Caprio. Di Caprio also shoots at the teacher and the pupils in his film.
CONSEQUENCES OF TV
VIOLENCE - BIGGEST PROBLEM ON TV
Even if you just watch a few hours of TV, you can't miss the fact that violence is everywhere on our TV programmes. Although research shows that violence on TV is worsening and getting more and more many people don't think that there is much violence on TV nowadays. But those people are confining their definition of violence to more extreme portrayals. But violence on TV is any scene which shows one or more people hurting another person or people. The violence on TV is also less acceptable as it becomes more graphic and gratuitous. But one of the greatest dangers of TV violence is probably that it tells us that violence is acceptable. TV says that violence is trivial, commonplace, everyday and a part of life. That means that the more you see on television or video incidents of violence, the less shocking it becomes. Since the TV box had been invented violence does exist on the screen, but at that time it wasn't shown in such a great measure like that happens nowadays. At that time there was also a flood of violent films from Hollywood such as the spaghetti westerns and TV tried to compete with this entertainment by showing the most violent of these films on their programmes. Another concerning example of TV violence is a children's programme called "Power Rangers" that has caused copycat violence by children in many countries. Even in norway this programme had to be withdrawn, because a link had been suggested between the killing of a little five-year-old girl by her six-year-old friends.
A public survey found out that people are more likely to be sensitive to violence if they identify with or have great sympathy for the victim, e.g. rape victims, children and animals. It also shows that the levels of acceptance of TV violence are strongly related to age and gender. Younger people are rather unconcerned about gory portrayals of violence than older people which think that the violence on TV is too graphic. On the other hand men show more tolerance of TV violence and accept violent portrayals as long as it is in content with the scene and presented at the right time on TV. And women have less acceptance of graphic violence and especially reject portrayals of sexual violence against women.
Other big problems on TV are also explicit sex, bad language and drugs. Although this increasing public concern the broadcasting authorities have done little to reduce screen violence. The only action they have done was to show such "risky" films at later times. But for example the government in America tries to introduce in a few years the V-chip to reduce unsuitable material for children on TV (see further explanation on Chapter IV "New censor chip for American TVs")
But TV isn't the only "bad boy". Violence also comes up in the music industry through violent rock and rap singers like Marylin Manson and the Wu-Tang Clan, with lyrics about masochism and murder. Also Heavy Metal Music often glorifies drug use, murder, suicide and satanism. Therefore in America there had been introduced a warning panel for music CDs with explicit lyrics. The panel should help parents being aware what kind of music their children are listening to.
Is there a link between TV violence and violent behaviour?
A link between violent, agressive criminal behaviour and violent material on TV has never been proved or disproved by research. But many psychologists suggest that violent material reinforces anti-social attitudes and people's behaviour and especially children's one.( - see further explanations at Chapter II "Children and TV")
CHILDREN AND TV
Children today are exposed to more violence and unsuitable material on the screen than ever before. With such a wide choice of TV channels and many teenagers having TVs in their bedrooms, parents are finding it harder to control what their children are watching. TV can offer exciting and positive entertainment and opportunites for learning, but it also can have negative influences, especially on a young audience.
Therefore the British government set up the "watershed" for TV. This watershed is at 9 p.m. and after that time TV channels may show programmes which are not suitable for children. The watershed should parents help to be aware what kind of programmes are suitable for their children, but many surveys showed parents often ignore the watershed and even the film and video classifications and so 7 out of 10 childen nowadays regularly watch television after the watershed.
Another survey has brought up that many children watch and enjoy violent 18 certificate films. Even 66% of 16 year-olds had watched "Pulp Fiction", the Tarantino film starring Uma Thurman which shows explicit violence and drug taking. But the survey also showed that teenagers were very sensitive to realistic violence in TV soaps or real life violence shown on the news.
Is screen violence harmful?
In 1979 a study was published about the link between screen violence and children's behaviour. It was a seven year study of more then 1500 British boys and the doctor who conducted that study said in his report that there is as much evidence to link TV with adolescent violence as smoking with lung cancer.
But even after 30 years of research, it is still not possible to prove that watching violence on the screen leads to violent behaviour in children. Specialists also suggest that a violent home life is more likely to make a child violent or to lead it into crime than the violence on TV. They also think that violence on TV does not create aggression where it doesn't exist before and that it could just reinforce the anti-social attitudes of people who already have aggressive tendencies. Many people think that violent behaviour in children can be a result of many influences in their lives and not just one. Nevertheless the latest research shows that children who are frequently exposed to violent portrayals are more likely to:
# copy what they see and act violently themselves
# learn the message that violence is a normal and acceptable part of life
# become fearful of the world around them
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) gives parents the following advices to act against unsuitable material.
They should always if it is possible:
# assess the suitability of TV programmes, films and videos for their
children, according to their age and maturity
# supervise or limit the viewing of their children
# teach their children positive viewing habits from an early age
# be aware of film classifications and the 9 o'clock watershed, to protect
their children from unsiutable material
# influence children's attitudes by commenting violence when it arises on the screen
# explain children that screen violence does not necessarly represent real or
# ensure that baby-sitters or childminders are aware which programmes, are
permitted and which not to watch for the children
# check up on their children's viewing when when they are with their friends
# watch videos or taped programmes alone first to check the suitability for
NEW CENSOR CHIP FOR AMERICAN TVs
The new censor chip is called V-chip, that is short for violence chip, and is placed inside a TV set and censors programmes by reading their classification code. It had been invented by a professor at the University of Vancouver and the US President Clinton signed a Telecommunications Bill which says that from 1998 all new TV sets with a screen size of 13 inches or more sold in America will have to have a V-chip. Clinton had explained this action, because he thought that the huge ammount of sex and violance an TV are the major reasons for the high levels of crime and family breakdown.
How exactly will the V-chip work?
Every programme which is shown on TV will be given a code that can be read by the V-chip which censors the materials according to four categories: violance, sex, bad language or an age classification.
This code will be transmitted as a signal along with each programme and picked up by the V-chip.
Every category will have a rating of one to five, with five the most liberal and one the most restrictive. Parents only have to define the levels for each category and when a programme comes that exceeds one of the levels a warning would appear on the TV sreen making the picture unrecognizable and switching channels. (The planned start of the V-chips in 1998 couldn't be fulfilled, but the government wants to introduce it at the begining of the year 2000.)
Is the V-chip coming over to Europa soon?
The European Parliament voted for the compulsory introduction of V-chips into every new TV set sold in Europe. But if the European Parliament really makes it law, then also a Europe - wide body would have to set the European standard for each tolerance level. The problem is that the 15 member states have to agree on what a dangerous level of sex or violence is.
But even if the standards could be set on a national basis, another problem would be if the regulators, the Government or the broadcasters should make that. Therefore it is rather unlikely that the V-chip will find its way to our homes in the near future. One of the reasons why the V-chip has come about in the USA is that TV there is now almost completely unregulated.
VIDEOS, THE BIG BROTHERS OF TV PROGRAMMES, AND THEIR CLASSIFICATION
By law almost all videos have to be classified and this task fulfils the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). It is the official body responsible for ensuring that all publicly shown films and videos conform to certain standards. Although the BBFC started in 1912, videos have only been classified since 1983 in Great Britain. The exceptional videos that have not to be classified are videos which are educational or are mainly concerned with sport, religion or music. Sometimes those videos carry an "E" symbol on their sleeves, which are not required by law.
A new category of classification has been introduced in 1995 called "R18" which stands for Restricted 18 that limits videos with that symbol to licensed sex shops and film clubs, because of their highly explicit portrayals of sexual scenes.
( - without picture)
As a result of a video industry voluntary initiative, you sometimes can see additional advice panels which are printed on the video sleeves. This gives you the possibility to get more information about the video. These additional information for some videos are given by the BBFC at the time when those videos are being classified. Since 1997 more video releases are carrying those panel on the packaging.
Another kind of additional help are the short explanatory trailers which have also been appearing on many video releases and start before the programme begins.
Important tips (for preventing children watching unsuitable video material):
# Don't leave a video you may have seen by the TV when you go out, because you either wouldn't leave an open bottle of whiskey or pocket of cigarettes within easy reach of children!
# Watch out for what sort of videos your children are watching with their older brothers or sisters! These videos may be perfectly suitable for the siblings to see, but not suitable at all for younger children that are with them.
# Try to investigate what kind of videos your children are watching, at their friend's houses! If you find out or just think that the videos your children watching are unsuitable for them, try to contact the parents of your children's friend and talk with them about your problems!
COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAMES - A PART OF MULTIMEDIA
The games industry is 7 years old and the companies which trade with such games are getting bigger and bigger. The real reason why games are so popular today is that they are good fun, but they can also be very educational. The fact is that, unlike TV, gaming is an active experience for children that requires concentration and mental agility. Games can help players, as a research has shown, learn to think and act quickly and improve the attention span. Today more and more families are turning to "edutainment" titles of games. The name edutainment is given to these games, because they combine entertainment and education. One category of such games are games about city planing that are one of the industry's most succesful ever games.
Some people think that games could be harmful for children, but this is not true, because a research had never been able to prove such theories. Besides there are less than 1% of games, which are on the market unsuitable for children under 18 years and 75% of games are universally suitable.
Can games cause epilepsy?
That is another myth that is not true. Even in 1992 the National Epilepsy Society carried out a study which proved that the condition can't be caused by playing computer or video games. It may be that a small number of people who already have "photosensitive epilepsy" can discover their condition for the first time when they are playing computer or video games. But that condition can also be caused by watching TV or by the lights in a disco.
Age suitability ratings for video and computer games
Because of the small amount of "adult" games, the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) has introduced a system of age suitability ratings. These age ratings are in the form of labels which mark the packaging of games. Computer and video games are exempt from legal classification and therefore the labels for the game packages are on a voluntary basis. The labels
show the age ranges for whom any particular game is suitable having regard to the content of the game, but not to the difficulty of a game.
There are four age - suitability ranges pointing out a game as suitable for children aged from 3 to 10, children and teenagers from 11 to 14, teenagers aged 15 to 17 and those over the age of 18.
The labels appear on the games as below:
WHAT ABOUT THE INTERNET?
The internet is the most useful but also the most dangerous invention of the 20th century say many people. Today it is the fastest way to communicate or get information about something when you are inside the world wide web (= www). But it can also be misused for dangerous and explicit material.
Because of this fear of harming and disturbing people especially children many governments had demanded that the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) eliminate harmful sites or face the prosecution. But the ISPs are unable to control the content, because they are just carrying the infomation for the "www" and nothing more. But even when ISPs could find and remove such sites they could be duplicated without a problem elsewhere on the world because of the ease of circulating information.
Then American companies started to write so called cyber patrol software packages, which enable parents to ensure that their children can't get access to adult or harmful material on the Internet when they are not around. Because of the differences even between US and British cultures it is possible that such an American software can block access to sites like information about drinking, cigarettes or aids which a British pupil could find useful. Therefore an international coaltion of non-governmental organisations has been trying to think out a workable ratings system that could be used by parents in a wide range of cultures to prevent their children from accessing unsuitable material on the global network. But there is big problem because of the European side of the coalition. The Europeans think that they will need at least 1 1/2 years to develop a workable pairing of a ratings system and software that can interpret it but the U.S partners have at most 9 months before the US demands mandatory ratings legislations. Another problem for the Europeans is that they at first would have to go through consultations in the various countries.
And how should it work?
The ratings system would work on a completely voluntary basis which means that every site that wanted to would to compare itself against a list of criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5, for categories such as amount of sex violence, intolerance expecially for racial items, nudity and dangerous activities like alcohol and drug use. Then the site‘s owner would rate the site against those criteria and then include that rating on the site. At the child's computer a specific software would read the ratings and compare it against criteria set by the parents. Then the computer would either deny or allow access to the side.