Joint Statement on the Impact of
Entertainment Violence on Children
Congressional Public Health Summit
Following the blue line divider below for your information is the official position of the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry on the influence of violence in entertainment. This position statement is verbatim of the release statement faxed to the CAP ministry by Pat McGrath of Morality in Media in NYC. The fax from which this was typed presents the signatures of the four representatives named at the end of the release.
An exceptionally important statement in the release that deserves your earnest attention is "There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." [Emphasis is mine] Another statement in the report is "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." From our study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed child psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the joint statement of the four public health associations and our findings.
It's official now. That which right-wing fanatics like you and I and Jesus have been shouting in the gap for years has been accepted by the professional health community. I applaud them for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33: [KJV] "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." [NIV] "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character."
Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children
Congressional Public Health Summit
July 26, 2000
We, the undersigned represent the public health community. As with any community, there exists a diversity of viewpoints - but with many matters, there is also consensus. Although a wide variety of viewpoints on the import and impact of entertainment violence on children may exist outside the public health community, within it, there is a strong consensus on many of the effects on children's health, well-being and development.
Television, movies, music, and interactive games are powerful learning tools, and highly influential media. The average American child spends as much as 28 hours a week watching television, and typically at least an hour a day playing video games or surfing the Internet. Several more hours each week are spent watching movies and videos, and listening to music. These media can be, and often are, used to instruct, encourage, and even inspire. But when these entertainment media showcase violence - and particularly in a context which glamorizes or trivializes it - the lessons learned can be destructive.
There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts.
At this time, well over 1000 studies - including reports from the Surgeon General's office, the National Institute of Mental Health, and numerous studies conducted by leading figures within our medical and public health organizations -- our own members - point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children. 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 behavior, particularly in children.
Its effects are measurable and long-lasting. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life.
The effect of entertainment violence on children is complex and variable. Some children will be affected more than others. But while duration, intensity, and extent of the impact may vary, there are several measurable negative effects of children's exposure to violent entertainment. These effects take several forms.
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 the acts of violence are acceptable behavior.
Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life. It can decease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.
Entertainment violence feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place. Viewing violence increases fear of becoming a victim of violence, with a resultant increase in self-protective behavior and a mistrust of others.
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.
Although less research has been done on the impact of violent interactive entertainment (video games and other interactive media) on young people, preliminary studies indicate that the negative impact may be significantly more severe than that wrought by television, movies, or music. More study is needed in this area, and we urge that resources and attention be directed to this field.
[CAP Note: We believe the reason for this more pronounced inlfuence of, for example, killing in interactive games than movies, music and TV media is that the subject experiences the killing only by sight and sound in movies, music and TV media while interactive video games players get to make the killing happen. And this "narcotic" experience combined with the sensory isolation established by using headphones which make the "killing" happen inside the user's head compounds the morally corrosive influence.]
We in no way mean to imply that entertainment violence is the sole, or even necessarily the most important factor contributing to youth aggression, anti-social attitudes, and violence. Family breakdown, peer influences, the availability of weapons, and numerous other factors may all contribute to these problems. Nor are we advocating restrictions on creative activity. The purpose of this document is descriptive, not prescriptive; we seek to lay out a clear picture of the pathological effects of entertainment violence. But we do hope that by articulating and releasing the consensus of the public health community, we may encourage greater public and parental awareness of the harms of violent entertainment, and encourage a more honest dialogue about what can be done to enhance the health and well-being of America's children.
Donald E. Cook, MD
American Academy of Pediatrics
Clarice Kestenbaum, MD
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
L. Michael Honaker, Ph.D
Deputy Chief Executive Officer
American Psychological Association
Dr. E. Ratcliffe Anderson, Jr. MD
Executive Vice President
American Medical Association
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