OPSBA Violence in the Media Coalition

Press Conference January 17, 2007
Queen's Park, Toronto
Information and news coverage


January 17, 2007 - Coalition News release: Media Violence - Not a Pretty Picture

January 17, 2007 - Coalition Press Conference Speaking notes

Letter from Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation to provincial politicians re media violence


Concerns raised over violence in music, TV, games

Peterborough Examiner
January 19, 2007
By Rachel Punch

Peterborough Liberal MPP Jeff Leal says he's willing to look at age-based restrictions on music sales in Ontario. But his federal counterpart says it's up to parents and individuals to guard our children from being exposed to violence in the media.

"Ultimately, governments can only do so much in this regard," said Peterborough Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro. "It will be up to individuals and parents to actually make the ultimate determination what is suitable and what isn't."

A coalition of teachers and parents went to Queen's Park Wednesday calling for age-based restrictions on music sales, similar to existing systems that prevent underaged consumers from obtaining inappropriate movies and video games.

They also called for changes to the federal Broadcasting Act to establish controls that would prevent radio and television stations from airing violent content before 9 pm.

"We have listened to the research, and cigarette packs now carry large and graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking," Professor Peter Jaffe of London's University of Western Ontario told a news conference.

"Where are the warnings on the many forms of media violence readily accessible by children? Tiny ratings stickers just don't cut it anymore."

Del Mastro said he's concerned with some of the violence on prime-time television and in video games. He said he would support "sensible reforms". "Ultimately, governments can only do so much," Del Mastro said.

Leal said as a husband and father of two small children, he is alarmed by the availability of violent images in society. "I think we have to be very vigilant with regard to the amount of violence our youngsters are potentially exposed to," he said. Parents, teachers, police and governments have a role in this issue, Leal said. He said he would be willing to look at age-based restrictions on music sales. "I would certainly look at anything that might shield kids from being exposed to an excessive amount of violence in society," he said.

The coalition said Canadian children are being exposed to far too much violence in music lyrics, video games and on television and need to be protected by laws similar to those that restrict the sale of tobacco to minors.

In addition to the music classification system and changes to the Broadcasting Act, the coalition also called on the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to add women to the list of groups that are protected under the section prohibiting public incitement of hatred.

Del Mastro said he does not like to see groups isolated. "I always get concerned when we start isolating specific groups because I think that creates more division, which I don't think is something that we should necessarily strive for," Del Mastro said.


Tune out the violence

Toronto Star editorial
January 19, 2007

Without leaving their bedrooms, many children can go on video-game crime sprees, watch graphic television murders, download music glorifying violence against women and see real-life brutality on popular video-sharing websites.

But for many people, the more violence they see, the less they notice.

"We no longer get outraged because we've seen it all," says University of Western Ontario education professor Peter Jaffe, who is part of a coalition of Ontario teachers, police, academics and parents that has sounded the alarm about the dangers of violence in the media.

The group believes there is "clear and compelling" evidence that exposure to such violence causes children long-term harm, and can fuel aggressive attitudes, values and behaviour.

That's why it wants governments to take steps to combat such violence.

Specifically, it wants age-based restrictions on recorded music sales similar to those on movies and video games, no violent radio or TV shows before 9 p.m., and protection for women under Criminal Code provisions outlawing the public incitement of hatred.

Their concerns are well-founded.

Just ask any parent who has tried to shield their children from the ceaseless casual violence that permeates music, television and video games.

But more laws are not the answer.

Mainstream media already keep the most explicit violence off the air when children are most likely to be watching. And technology means more children are getting their TV, music and other entertainment from the Internet, which is almost impossible to regulate.

So, what is the solution?

As imperfect as it might seem, the solution lies with all of us.

With parents, who should monitor more closely their kids' media consumption and know when to say no.

With schools, which should make media literacy and critical thinking a bigger part of the curriculum.

And with all media consumers, who should stop watching mindlessly, get outraged and demand better.


Children exposed to too much violence in the media, parents, teachers warn

Global TV News
By Keith Leslie Canadian Press
January 17, 2007

Canadian children are being exposed to far too much violence in music lyrics, video games and on television and need to be protected by laws similar to those that restrict the sale of tobacco to minors, a coalition of teachers and parents said Wednesday.

The group called for age-based restrictions on music sales, similar to existing systems that prevent underaged consumers from obtaining inappropriate movies and video games. They also called for controls that would prevent radio and television stations from airing violent content before 9 p.m.

"We have listened to the research, and cigarette packs now carry large and graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking," Professor Peter Jaffe of the University of Western Ontario told a news conference.

"Where are the warnings on the many forms of media violence readily accessible by children? Tiny ratings stickers just don't cut it any more."

Jaffe cited decades of "clear and compelling" evidence that he said illustrates the long-lasting negative impact of violent media on children, and said medical and mental health experts agree it has become a very serious problem.

"Viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behaviour, particularly in children," he said.

"We've been exposed to more and more (violence) so that we've gotten desensitized. We no longer get outraged because we've seen it all."

The teachers, trustees and parent groups said it's not just video images on television and the Internet that are exposing children to violent behaviour.

"Music has escaped the need for classification, despite the fact that the music industry has gone the way of film, television and video games in producing explicity violent, sexual material," said Rhonda Kimberley-Young, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.

"We believe that some of this material is damaging to children and youth and should be restricted to those over the age of 18."

In addition to the music classification system and changes to the Broadcasting Act, the coalition also called on the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to add women to the list of groups that are protected under the section prohibiting public incitement of hatred.

"We believe that leaving girls and women off the list compromises their safety," Kimberley-Young said.

"Recommendations to add "sex" or "gender" to the groups protected by the public incitement of hatred law have been on the table for at least 20 years now."

During the news conference, the group showed a video depicting huge, bulked-up professional wrestlers attacking women and ripping off their clothes as an example of the type of violence against women that kids can routinely see on television - images Jaffe said he hoped would not be allowed if the law were changed.

"There's a different reality today, and we're asking for people to take a sober, second look at it," he said. "Clearly there are going to be test cases, and wrestling may be one where hopefully society will say those images are no longer acceptable."


Group calls on government to limit kids' exposure to violent media

City TV News
January 17, 2007

It's nearly impossible to escape graphic scenes of people being shot, beaten and abused on television and in film and a group of educators and parents concerned about the effect those pervasive images are having on children is calling on the government to take action.

The coalition wants to see changes to the Criminal Code and Broadcasting Act to limit kids' exposure to violence in the media, which it believes leads to an increase in aggressive actions in young people.

"After 30 years of research, the conclusion of the public health community is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behaviours, particularly in children," Professor Peter Jaffe of the University of Western Ontario explained.

"Its effects are measurable and long lasting."

The group says radio and television stations should have to limit the amount of violent, adult-oriented programming until after 9pm and is recommending that a rating system be put in place for pre-recorded music, much like the one used for video games and movies.

Women and girls should also be protected under the public incitement of hatred law, according to the coalition.

Emily Noble, President of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, is calling on educators to start teaching "critical literacy", which involves showing kids how to analyze and critique the images they are taking in.

"When teachers teach critical literacy texts in the classroom, students adopt a critical stance to texts and begin to look at the impact on themselves and the world around them," she explained.

"Teachers need to be aware of what is currently being marketed to children and to be able to share with parents information of violence on children's development.

"We can reduce the many negative effects of violence in media by giving them resources ... that take a critical literacy approach on the effects of media and how it distorts the reality of violence."

The group compared violent media images to cigarettes - we teach children that smoking causes cancer and says we should teach them that exposure to violent programming also has a negative effect.


 Too graphic for kids?

Some want bolder warnings and tighter laws; others say it's the parents' fault

Toronto Star
January 18, 2007 
By Daniel Girard Education Reporter

It ranges from television shows where bulky male wrestlers hit scantily clad women over the head with chairs to video games that mark success by the number of people a player "kills" to song lyrics and websites celebrating the power of the gun.

Violence is everywhere on TV, in music and on the Internet.

And, with all children spending about 6 1/2 hours a day consuming those various forms of media, a new coalition of academics, teachers' unions, police and parents says it's clear youngsters are being exposed to way too much violence.

Likening the connection between media violence and attitudes and behaviour to that of smoking and lung cancer, they're calling on government, industry and parents to do more to combat it.

"We have listened to the research, we've taken on board the facts, and cigarette packages now carry large and graphic warnings of the dangers of smoking," professor Peter Jaffe of the University of Western Ontario told a Queen's Park news conference yesterday. "We have to ask ourselves where are the warnings on the many forms of violent media readily accessible by children.

"Tiny ratings stickers just don't cut it."

There remains a vigorous debate over what causal connection there is, if any, between violence in the media and aggressive behaviour. There are also critics who say that rather than censoring the content of such programming, parents should take more responsibility for what children are exposed to.

But Jaffe, an education professor at Western's Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children in London, Ont., said upon review of more than 1,000 studies over the past three decades there is "clear and compelling" evidence of the negative impact of violence on children and youth.

Its pervasiveness desensitizes people, particularly children, so nothing is shocking or wrong, he said.

At the news conference, the coalition played a video clip of male wrestlers beating up and tearing at the clothes of females in the ring. If their recommendations are adopted, the group hopes such images would be severely curtailed or even banned outright.

"We continue to escalate the images of violence," said Jaffe, a father of four who is also a trustee with the Thames Valley District School Board in the London area. "This is a wake-up call.

"We're not going to take it any more."

Among the measures the group called for are:

Changing the Criminal Code's public incitement of hatred laws so girls and women are protected.

Amending the Broadcasting Act to establish "a watershed hour" of 9 p.m. for radio and television stations to limit the violent programming seen by young people.

Having provincial governments legislate an age-based classification system for recorded music similar to one that exists for films, music videos and video games.

A spokesperson for Premier Dalton McGuinty said there are no plans for such a warning system.

"We appreciate the presentation made and will consider the advice presented," said Jane Almeida. "However, at this time, our priority for students is on smaller class sizes, anti-bullying programs in schools and character education."

Officials with Canadian broadcasters and the music industry said there are already safeguards in place to keep violent content away from children. Compact discs carry labels warning about objectionable lyrics and radio and television stations have rules that keep such material off air until 9 p.m.

Ignoring the rules can cost stations their licence. And, broadcasters note, viewers are able to make complaints about violence – or any other content – to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

"There will always be organizations and individuals who have concerns," said Pierre Pontbriand, a spokesperson who the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. But Pontbriand said the debate about content is "a much broader issue than just looking at broadcasting," noting that his organization has an extensive media awareness campaign.

"It's important that we educate the youth about the potential, as well as the dangers, of all media."

To that end, the coalition also said they are working with Ontario education officials, teachers and parent groups to develop programs that will help children better analyze and critique media they are exposed to and the impact it has on them and those around them.

"As a society we do have to face the impact of media violence in individual homes as well as in the broader community," said Emily Noble, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.

The connection between violence in the media and aggressive behaviour has been central in some recent deadly events.

In September, a violent webpage was in the spotlight after Kimveer Gill went on a shooting spree at Montreal's Dawson College, killing a student and injuring about 20 others before killing himself. His online life featured hate-filled and violent writings as well as the glorification of guns.

Last January, cab driver Tahir Khan was killed when his taxi was T-boned in Toronto by a car allegedly involved in a street race. Police said they found a copy of the popular video game Need For Speed next to one of the young drivers now facing charges in the case.

In late 2005, Liberal MP Dan McTeague tried to keep rap artist 50 Cent from Canada, arguing he promotes violence. That followed a decision by Paramount Pictures to pull some billboard ads for a movie about his life, which showed the rapper holding a gun in his left hand and a microphone in his right.

Jaffe rejected suggestions the coalition is using censorship as a way of absolving parents of responsibility for monitoring exposure to all forms of media.

"We are focusing on parents," he said. "But I think part of our message is that parents can't do it alone."