One of the main influences that television is believed to have is on children’s behaviour, in particular causing aggression and violence. Perhaps one of the most controversial issues surrounding television, violence on television and the effects it has on viewers has been heavily researched and studied over the years. It has been found that children see around 10,000 acts of violence per year on television (Gerbner, G cited in Morgan 2002). Gerbner’s (ibid) findings show that since the 1960s the number of violent acts have been stable, and in children’s programmes there are about 25 violent acts per hour.
Some theorists argue viewing violence on television has an adverse effect on children and over the years a number of studies have consistently found that there is a correlation between viewing television violence and increased aggression and violence in children. Comstock (cited in Huesmann, Eron 1986) found in a laboratory environment that children who viewed a violent short film would then be observed behaving more aggressively immediately afterwards as they played compared to the children who did not view the violent film. This is further backed up in a study conducted by Atkin, Greenberg, Korzenny, and McDermott (1979, cited in Murray 2008), which found that “heavy TV-violence viewers were more likely to choose physical and verbal aggressive responses to solve hypothetical interpersonal conflict situations”.
One reason that some studies have suggested as to why children may become more aggressive after watching violent television programmes is ‘observational learning’. Huesmann and Eron (1986) says that observational learning applies to television as “children learn to behave aggressively by imitating violent actors on television as they learn cognitive and social skills by imitating parents, siblings, peers and others.” The amount of influence that will lead the child to imitate the actor is greatly dependent on the amount of positive reinforcement the actor receives and if the child views the actor being rewarded for aggressive behaviour, it’s more likely that the child will copy that behaviour (Bandura et al., 1963a; Walter et al., 1963; cited in Huesmann, Eron 1986).
However there are theorists who disagree that television causes increased violence in children. In Himmelweit’s (cited in Murray 2008) research she found that television was not likely to cause aggressive behaviour in children. Some theorists suggest that observational learning can also contribute to positive behaviour as Pitkänen-Pulkkinen (cited in Huesmann, Eron 1986) found. In his research, he showed that 8 year old boys’ aggressive behaviour could be reduced by them watching films which showed practical solutions to everyday conflicts which appear often during their childhood. Ruken Akar-Vural also (2010) found when questioning children who lived in rural Turkey about the messages they took from the action-dramas they watched which dealt with issues of violence,...