Groups link media to child violence

Associated Press
July 25, 2000
By Jesse J. Holland

WASHINGTON (AP) - Marking what one lawmaker called a turning point in the battle against entertainment violence, four national health associations are directly linking violence in television, music, video games and movies to increasing violence among children.

``Its effects are measurable and long-lasting,'' the four groups say in a statement. ``Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life.''

The joint statement by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry will be the centerpiece of a public health summit Wednesday on entertainment violence.

``The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behaviors, particularly in children,'' the organizations' statement says.

Advocating a code of conduct for the entire entertainment industry, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., compared the statement to the medical community declaring that cigarettes can cause cancer.

``I think this is an important turning point,'' said Brownback. ``Among the professional community, there's no longer any doubt about this. For the first time, you have the four major medical and psychiatric associations coming together and stating flatly that violence in entertainment has a direct effect on violence in our children.''

The Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Broadcasters refused to comment Tuesday on the medical associations' statement. ``I'm not going to comment on something we haven't seen,'' said Jeff Bobeck, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters.

The four health professional groups left no doubt about their feelings in the statement:
``Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts. Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume that acts of violence are acceptable behavior,'' it said.

``Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life. It can decrease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.''

``Viewing violence may lead to real life violence. Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.''

Brownback said he hopes the statement will convince lawmakers that something has to be done about media violence. And, he said, ``I hope parents will look at this and say that they're going to have to police their children's entertainment violence content the same way they police what their children eat and other health issues.''

One entertainment violence monitoring group, The Lion & Lamb Project in nearby Bethesda, Md., cheered the statement. ``Right now, the message we're sending children in the media is that violence is OK ... that it's part of life and sometimes it's even funny,'' executive director Daphne White said. ``We're even using violence for humor now.''

Bobeck said television now has V-chips and a rating system to help parents take control of what their children watch. ``We think more parents need to control their remote control,'' Bobeck said.

But White said the entertainment industry markets video games and toys to children based on R-rated movies, has increased the violence in movies and shows that are rated for children and even previewed adult-oriented movies during children's G-rated movie. ``The industry has been actively marketing adult stuff to children while saying it's the adults' fault,'' she said.