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It's All About the Kids:a column by Dr. Janet McPeek


The impact of violence on kids



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May 15, 2013 - The news has been filled lately with stories of violence. The Boston Marathon bombing, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting are just a few examples. Incidents like these cause us to wonder whether we are becoming a more violent society. And if so, what impact is it having on our children and teens?

In addition to real-life violent behavior, we are bombarded with violent messages in entertainment and sports. A recent article published in The National Psychologist titled, "The Carousel of Violence in Society," noted that the Connecticut school shooting last December is representative of what is happening in our culture. Author Stephen A. Ragusea, Psy.D. wrote that more than 50 years of research supports that our culture not only encourages violence through expectations of increased physicality in sports such as boxing, hockey and "extreme" sports, but that we inundate adults and kids with television programs, movies and video games that all contain excessive amounts of violent language and acts.

Studies show long term viewing of violence on TV can cause children to become less sensitive to the pain of others, more fearful of the world around them, and more likely to use aggressive behavior toward others.

Although an increased exposure to violence has a negative impact on some kids, it doesn't affect all kids. Research by the American Psychological Association shows there is clearly an increase in violent thoughts and feelings among children and teens. However, these feelings don't necessarily translate into actions. Some kids are able to handle the feelings without it affecting their behavior. Others can't.

Parents need to keep a close watch on the types of music, TV programs, movies and video games that occupy their children's time.

You should also keep an eye on the clock. The amount of time children spend viewing, listening to or playing violent media matters, because it is time spent away from other activities.

Interactive video games have the strongest impact because they hold the child's attention for long periods of time.

There are several other factors that influence the impact violence has on a child, including intelligence, family and community values, other violent and non-violent occurrences in his or her life, and overall character development.

In addition to introducing children to the types of media that better reflect your personal values, parents should take the time to talk about the consequences of violent behavior. Remind your kids that violence rarely goes unpunished.

It's also a good idea to teach your child conflict resolution and discourage any kind of physical or verbal violence toward others.

By communicating, exercising moderate censorship and setting a positive example with your own choice of television programs, your child is likely to grow up more adjusted and considerate toward others.

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