NEWS

Parental guidance is necessary with increase in brutal themes on air

Greek children aged 4-15 watch TV two-and-a-half hours a day on average – as much as they spend on doing their homework, especially in the younger age groups. Scenes of violence have increased. «There were 1.4 violent scenes per minute on Greek television in 1996, which reached 3-4 scenes per minute in 1999,» said Stelios Papathanassopoulos, a professor of media studies and communications at Athens University. And he added: «At the same time, if movies from the past are compared to modern ones, one would find that most older films today seem normal or naive in their portrayal of violence. ‘Batman’ in 1966 contained no deaths; the remake in 1989 had 41 deaths. ‘Robocop’ in 1987 had 32 deaths; ‘Robocop 2’ in 1991 contained 81 deaths. ‘Rambo 3’ reaches a total of 106 deaths and 245 scenes of hardcore violence.» To what extent are children affected by the increase in televisual violence? A recent American study that took 17 years to complete and in which researchers monitored the behavior of 707 viewers found that 25.3 percent of those who watched more than three hours of TV a day during adolescence were far more likely to commit acts of violence – in the form of arguments that led to blows. «When children are bombarded with violent images, they gain the erroneous impression that the world is more violent than it actually is. And then they become more aggressive and the world more violent,» child psychiatrist Eleni Fotopoulou told Kathimerini. Another source of violence is the news. According to research by the French newspaper Le Monde, from January to May 2002, 18,766 reports on the news concerned crimes, assaults, car robberies and police raids – on average, 987 such themes a week. In Greece, approximately 15 percent of children aged 4-15 watch the news. But why is the there so much violence on television? «Because it has steady viewing ratings,» said Papathanassopoulos. «Classic action movies such as ‘Die Hard’ have, even if they have been shown two or three times, very good viewing ratings.» Fotopoulou points out: «After a movie has been broadcast many times, we lose the pleasure of the optical stimulation. And the most violent scenes remain in our memory, images that have caused intense emotion.» Pornographic scenes seen by a child can cause it deep harm, child psychiatrists note. «This is because the child is not physically and psychologically developed enough to understand the nature of a sexual act,» Fotopoulou said. «It perceives pornography as a violent act on the body. Typically, children who have espied their parents having sex describe the scene as a very violent one. ‘Dad was beating up mom,’ they say. «At the same time, a child exposed to pornography is deprived of the essential stage of fantasy and of flirtation which in adulthood will guide it to the sexual act.» Apart from the revulsion, shame and deep turmoil that a child feels, it may sometimes try to imitate the scenes it has seen. There are cases in which a child that has been repeatedly exposed to pornography becomes an adult who perceives sex as violent. «[Reality shows] consolidate relationships that are based on personal interest,» said Fotopoulou. Broadcasts of this nature appear to contribute to the decay of the system of values in society, rendering them relative concepts in the eyes of both children and adults. Soap operas, on the other hand, have reached the point in which they are regarded as containing definitely harmless, if not positive, messages. Children imitate their parents. When the parents watch three and a half hours a day of television, why shouldn’t children watch two and a half hours? Moreover, parents frequently use television as «a harmless narcotic» that will keep the children out of their hair. The words, «Leave me alone and go and watch TV» are often heard in families. «I doubt that parents actually see the signs marking a program as suitable and unsuitable,» said Papathanassopoulos. On the other hand, a child cannot be deprived of television. It is part of present-day reality. What is needed is a critical and selective approach to the medium. Of course, the child needs to be protected against scenes of extreme violence or pornography. In the case of other programs, however, the parent can sit next to the child and, by talking about them, rob the scenes of their effect. Parents should give their children reasons why what is shown is not real, explain what happens in real life or comment on the values depicted on screen. Moreover, the parent can demonstrate to the child positive uses of television. A program on a part of the planet, say, can be continued with references to the relevant maps or travel guides. A documentary on a historical figure can be used to spur parents and children to look things up in an encyclopedia. It is certain that as the parent constitutes a role model for the child, how parents use television will affect the way that the child views it.