It is frequently noted that exposure to violent media increases aggressive behavior in children. Numerous studies have found associations between the two. One particular study also mentioned the fact that “every single G-rated film that was released to theaters in the United States up to 1999 contains violence, and half show at least 1 character rejoicing in violence by cheering or laughing” (Christakis & Zimmerman, 2007, p. 994). The second part of that sentence caught my interest, though it was put into the back of my mind as I read due to the fact that it wasn’t a major part of their research. As I read further they also noted that “[t]he toddler and preschool years constitute the time during which most children learn to use nonaggressive alternatives preferentially over aggressive behavior” (Christakis & Zimmerman, 2007, p. 996). This made me think about how the use of nonaggressive behavior would be promoted over that of aggressive behavior. One way that occurred to me was reprimanding the aggressive behaviors, and I then thought on how this could connect to the viewing of violent media. What I thought of was that, if media containing aggression and violence also contained reprimands for said behavior, it would not lead to increasing the behavior in the viewers. In light of studies saying that the viewing does increase the behavior, it was my hypothesis that there would be few instances of reprimands given for aggressive behavior in an hour of children’s television.
In this study, I used a “score sheet” to keep track of the following instances of aggressive behavior: Biting, Hitting/Slapping, Kicking, Use of a Weapon, Verbal Abuse Type 1, and Verbal Abuse Type 2, as well as tracking Reprimands. During the hour viewing, I watched The Looney Tunes Show (Season 1 - Episode 16) “That's My Baby” and Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu (Season 2 - Episode 8) “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.”
Due to a lack of cable television readily available to me, I found the names of episodes that were played during the day, and I watched them online. As I watched, I kept my score sheet handy and tracked each instance of behavior I was looking for. For the purpose of this study, Biting is defined as “using teeth to injure a being,” Hitting/Slapping as “the use of open hands of clenched fists to injure a being,” Kicking as “the use of feet to injure a being,” Use of a Weapon as “using an impersonal tool to injure a being,” as Verbal Abuse Type 1 as “using words in an attempt to cause emotional harm to a being,” as Verbal Abuse Type 2 as “a verbal expression of intent/a wish to do harm to a being,” and Reprimands as “a negative response given to a user of aggressive behavior.” For each instance in a scene, a tally was given to the category. To make the results easier to calculate, if in a scene one character uses one type of behavior multiple times against one other character (e.g. stabbing repeatedly with a sword), it counts as one instance of the behavior (keeping with last example, one Use of a Weapon mark would be given even if there were several stabs shown). However, if multiple characters are performing the same action against one single character, or one single character is using the same action against multiple characters in a scene, each new instance will be counted as a separate instance (e.g. five characters repeatedly stabbing one character will be 5 marks for Use of a Weapon, and one character stabbing 5 other characters will be 5 marks). Also, a character applying a behavior to their self is counted as a usage (e.g. slapping oneself on the forehead).
As hypothesized, there was an incredibly low amount of reprimands given to aggressive acts. In fact, there was only one instance of it. It should also be noted that this singular instance also contained Verbal Abuse Type 1 as part of the reprimand. This lack of negative reception to aggressive behavior could potentially be a part of why television is able to influence children’s behaviors, though a separate experiment would be required to prove or disprove this possibility.
It may also be worth noting that, though I kept one overall tally that combined both scores, a majority of the instances of Verbal Abuse Type 1 were found in the episode of The Looney Tunes Show, and a majority of the Use of a Weapon instances were found in the Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu episode.
Christakis, Dimitri A. & Zimmerman, Frederick J. (2007)
Violent Television Viewing During Preschool Is Associated With Antisocial Behavior During School Age, Pediatrics, Volume 120 No. 5, p. 993-999