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Nigerian Parents, Experts Share Their Experiences And Tips To Protecting Children From TV/ Media Violence

Nigerian Parents, Experts Share Their Experiences And Tips To Protecting Children From TV/ Media Violence

Media violence has become a contemporary and global issue that has constituted a serious hazard to children and the rest of the populace.

As the world moves into a digital era with enhanced images and sound, media violence will continue to be a focus of public concern.

On the other hand, television can be a very powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behaviour. Its influence hinges on its role as a medium of information, relaxation or recreation and socialisation.

However, studies have established a link between the tendency for children to exhibit violent behaviour and the viewing of aggression in one form or the other.

Violence is to attack or inflict injury or pain on another person. It has also been described as showing in motion pictures acts of attacks and injuries.

According to a study conducted in the United States and published by the US Department of Justice, over 60 per cent of American children have been exposed to violence and crime in their homes, schools, and communities.

Given that American children watch an average of four hours of television daily, one of the significant media through which they are exposed to violence is television.

A 2022 study by researchers from the University of Montreal found a scientific link between watching violent television programmes from a young age and poor performance at secondary school.

The researchers analysed the content shown to nearly 2,000 children aged 3.5 to 4.5.

When the kids turned 12, the team asked them and their teachers to evaluate how well they thought they were doing at school.

It was found that the boys and girls exposed to violent content in early childhood were more likely to experience “increases in emotional distress” later on.

“They also experienced decreases in classroom engagement, academic achievement and academic motivation by the end of the sixth grade,”

the lead author, Dr Linda Pagani, added.

Another study conducted in 2006 in the United Kingdom involved an analysis of a total of 943 children programmes whose content aired for more than 4,700 hours of programme broadcast on eight television channels. Thirty-nine per cent of the programmes contained violence.

The report indicated that more than 4,000 violent acts and 7.2 hours of violence occurred in the programmes. More than half of the violence occurred in general children’s programmes, with somewhat under half being found in cartoons.

A school teacher and mom-of-3, Mrs Esther Yoade, told PUNCH that many parents overlook the effects of TV programmes their children watch on how they react to their environment.

She said,

“When my first son was four or five, I suddenly noticed a change in his pattern of behaviour. He would be kicking and punching me whenever I was dressing him up for school and throwing things around the house. He was acting the same to his dad as well.

“I first thought maybe he learned it from his peers at school but when I listened carefully to the sounds he made whenever he acted that way, I soon found out they were kung fu shouts. He must have been watching Chinese movies somewhere.

“It was then it occurred to me that he often went to our neighbour’s place at the time to watch Chinese movies where characters kick and fight and it was from there he picked up his aggression. Once we cut him off from such films and disciplined him whenever he hit me or his dad, he stopped it.”

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An engineer and father-of-1, Seyi Alawale, pointed out that parenting requires diligent monitoring of the contents children are exposed to. Alawale said,

“As a father, it is not always easy to monitor what children watch on TV or even on the phone and this is a generation that is very quick to adapt to modern technology unlike ours and that can be a dangerous terrain.

When you examine some of the popular shows on TV, you will find out that they are not suitable for children at all. So, in these times, parenting has to be very deliberate.

What I do is, I have activated a parental control filter on the channels we view and even my phones. Our daughter only watches educative or musical content specifically designed for children of her age.

If we want to watch a film, my wife and I will first watch it to see if it’s suitable for children. One has to be introspective with the current trend of violence around the world.”

A mother of four, Mrs Titi Aderibigbe, noted that parents needed to be more present in the lives of their children and not use television as a tool to make up for their absence. She said,

“It lies on us parents not to use TV as a means of filling the void we have created. In my experience as a teacher, I have found out that most children who spend hours on the TV are not usually good in their academics.

Extended viewing of TV does something to a child’s brain and takes a huge chunk of their time. But then, if we look around, we will see that many parents are not often present with their children for most hours of the day.

The father is out on his job, the mother is also out on her job and they see their children only late in the evenings; who really gets to raise these children? It’s the TV!

They make TV characters and gangsters their models and are being schooled daily by Netflix and African Magic, and we wonder why they behave the way they do.

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If you watch some of the TV shows children in some homes are exposed to, even you as an adult will be shocked. Yet, you will find their parents seated there with them in glee and saying ‘It’s just entertainment.’ They are not helping them.”

On its website, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry stated,

“Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. Sometimes, watching a single violent programme can increase aggressiveness.

“Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see. Children with emotional, behavioural, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may show immediately in the child’s behaviour or may surface years later.

“Young people can be affected even when their home life shows no tendency towards violence. The amount of time children watch TV, regardless of content, should be moderated because it decreases time spent on more beneficial activities such as reading, playing with friends, and developing hobbies.

“If parents have serious difficulties setting limits, or have ongoing concerns about their child’s behaviour, they should contact a child and adolescent psychiatrist or a mental health provider for consultation and assistance.”

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Commenting on what parents could do to protect their children from exposure to violence on TV, a paediatric nurse, Tolulope Awopetu, highlighted the need for parents to pay attention and draw boundaries. She stated:

“There are a lot of violent images on TV and the Internet these days. The viewer is frequently shown guns, bomb explosions and war casualties and many children watch these scenarios several hours a week. Unlike adults, children are not able to critically assess what they view, leaving the tendency for imitation of what they see very high.

“Of course, TV violence is not the only cause of aggressive or violent behaviour in children, but the significant role it plays cannot be denied. Parents can protect children from excessive TV violence by paying attention to the programmes their children are watching and watching some with them.

“They should also set limits on the amount of time they spend on the television or consider removing the TV set from the children’s room. Parents should also communicate with their children when they see violent scenarios in movies that such violence in real life results in pain or death.”

On his part, a psychologist, Kolawole Afolabi, stated that parents should refuse to let their children see shows known to be violent. She said,

“The best thing is to cut them off from that source of exposure. You can change the channel or turn off the TV set when such offensive material comes on, with an explanation of what is wrong with the programme.

“If this cannot be done, parents should verbally disapprove of the violent episodes in front of the children, stressing the belief that such behaviour is not the best way to handle a problem.

“Violence in television, unlike other agents, is usually presented as entertaining and vividly in a way that makes it easier for children to imitate. Although not every child exposed to violence on TV will grow up to be violent, that exposure may play a significant role and increase the chances of the child behaving in a violent way.”

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