Does TV violence harm youth?

The entertainment media plays an extremely powerful role in the formation of values and morals. Television violence affects youngsters of all ages, all socioeconomic levels and all levels of intelligence.

Today's children and teens are subjected to vast amounts of violence on TV. They are being fed a steady flow of death, killings, blood and other grotesque acts. These disruptive viewings can eventually take a toll on a person and the way they view life someday.

For instance, TV cartoons feature dehumanized characters, such as Transformers and the Ninja Turtles, whom are engaged in destructive acts of violence and mutilation. MTV's "Beavis and Butt-head" encourage fire, smoking, foul language, drinking and condone stealing. Is this what we really want our society, especially our younger generation, be subjected to?

Children watch and are enthralled with excitement and the beauty of the kill. Later they graduate to TV programs and movies that depict actual live human beings killing or degrading others. Inevitably, some youngsters will actually someday imitate the brutality in real life.

For example, youngsters do indeed mimic many of the violent acts and behavior of cartoon characters, such as Beavis and Butt-head. One day, a five-year-old boy watched his favorite cartoon, "Beavis and Butt-head," and saw the characters pulled one of their famous arson stunts. The result? He set his house ablaze and his younger sister was killed.

Three teenagers in Minnesota, aping a scene from Walt Disney's "The Program," laid down in the center line of a two-lane highway. Inevitably they were squashed to death.

The entertainment media does not think about the consequences of what they purvey until something horrendous happens.

There are no longer any references to fire in "Beavis and Butt-head" and rumor now has it that Butt-head's name will be changed to Spencer. And Walt Disney quickly pulled all prints of "The Program" from theaters nationwide and removed the infamous highway scene.

It's pathetic that only death makes the entertainment media come to the sudden realization that it may be remotely possible that these shows can affect the lives of children.

However, it is important to realize that not necessarily all teenagers and children will view a TV cartoon or show and imitate its violence and gore. The healthy American family isn't exactly going to rush out and purchase Uzis just because Arnold Schwarzeneggar seems so cool wielding one. But the psychological road between real life and make believe doesn't run only one way. In this society, mass-produced and mass-consumed movies, books and TV programs are a considerable part of our real lives. Television contributes greatly to making us behave and act the way we do.

The question of what can and should be done can be crucial to solve the dilemma of TV violence and its impact on society. Removing all violence and gore from the media would make no more than a small dent in the massive problem of crime. Much more fundamental changes in society are needed.

America is a democracy. We have a right and need for reasonable legislation, compatible with the First Amendment, to turn back this tide of violence. The most critical goal should be to educate children and adult viewers.

The main objection raised to any legislation of TV violence is that it violates the First Amendment.

The First Amendment argument is simply a smokescreen used by the entertainment industry which blocks any appropriate governmental actions.

Above all, parents especially should take a long, hard look in the mirror. The values of today's youth are magnified reflections of the values of their elders. Parents should remember the words of the father in Harry Chapin's song "Cat's in the Cradle," when he comes to the realization about his insensitive, uncaring son "He's grown up just like me. My boy was just like me."

We must help turn back this growing culture of violence as quickly as possible. The human toll on our society is too great to look the other way.

Joanne Garro is a communications freshman.

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