Filed in FAMILY by on September 20, 2010

Beware! Movies can make your child a bully
By Nnaemeka Meribe
Monday, 20 Sep 2010

Last Wednesday, the Mail of London reported that an American teenager, who strangled his younger brother, told investigators that he was inspired by the TV series, Dexter.

Investigators claimed Andrew Conley reportedly told them that he identified with the character from the TV series that features a police forensic expert who doubles as a serial killer.

The 17-year-old told detectives that he had wanted to kill someone for years. He said his urge to commit murder was like someone who was hungry and had to eat and that he had also fantasised about murdering his father.

He said that he strangled the 10-year-old younger brother last November with his bare hands for 20 minutes to make sure he was dead.

The TV series stars Michael Hall as a blood splatter expert working for Miami Police who also doubles as a serial killer dispatching his victims in a grisly way.

Hall won a Golden Globe for his portrayal but the show was criticised in the US for its violent theme by the Parents Television Council.

Violence, indeed, is one of the most popular forms of entertainment. A good percentage of television programmes being shown in prime time and a good number of the films and video games available in the market contain some form of violence.

The incident once again brings to the fore the controversial issue of the effects of violent films, TV programmes and video games on children and adolescents. While some argue that violent films are likely to make people violent, others people with violent tendencies watch violent films for inspiration.

Before now, there had been other instances where violent behaviour was blamed on exposure to mediated violence.

For instance, in August 10, 1992, Newsday reported that two men forced five employees and customers to drinking a liquid called Drano. The men said they got the idea from the Clint Eastwood movie, Magnum Force, in which a pimp kills a prostitute by making her drink the product.

Psychologists say that what children are exposed to tends to shape their world view. For instance, an article on media violence published on quotes child and adolescent psychologist, Dr. Debra Kowalski, as noting, ”With children having so much exposure to the media, the messages that come across… are very important and they shape how a child sees the world and what a child sees as important. A lot of the messages related to violence and sexuality can negatively impact a child.”

Some experiments have also shown that children who are exposed to violence are more likely to act violently. Psychologists R. Liebert and R. Baron conducted an experiment using real television programmes, in which they measured the willingness of children to hurt another child after watching a programme.

In a laboratory, children were shown either a race track or an aggressive programme and then allowed either to facilitate or disrupt another child‘s game. They could hurt the other child by pressing a button to make the handle hot which the child was holding. Findings from the research, which was published in the volume six of the journal, Developmental Psychology, showed that the children who had seen the aggressive programme were significantly more aggressive than those who had seen the non-aggressive programme.

But in the article, Reality bytes: Eight myths about video games debunked, published on, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Henry Jenkins, contends that the argument that exposure to media violence induces violence in children is flawed.

He claims that research has, on the contrary, found that people serving prison terms for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the society. He cites a 2001 US Surgeon General‘s report which notes that the strongest risk factors for school shootings centred on mental stability and the quality of home life, not media exposure.

While not disputing that other factors are likely to be involved in triggering violence in children, a Montessori expert, Mrs Ify Nwobosi, insists that watching violent films can trigger aggressiveness in children and adolescents.

She says, ”Violent kids are not born. It is the environment that can make children violent. Children, who see violence around them, whether in the television or physically, in their homes, are more likely to be violent.”

She adds that, unlike adults, children do not understand that movies and TV programmes are make believe, and as such, when they are with their friends them attempt acting what they see on TV.

Similarly, the Head, Psychiatry, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Osogbo campus, Adeoye Oyewole, argues that though everyone has an innate tendency towards aggressiveness, it is the environment that shapes those impulses. Citing the social learning theory, he says what one watches influences one more than what one hears or reads.

One of the postulations of the SLT is that we learn from models. And there is the live model, and actual person demonstrating the behaviour. There can also be a symbolic model, which can be a person or action portrayed in some other media, such as TV and computer games.

He says, ”The media open your thoughts to another person. And that person can inspire your actions. All other factors are not really as influential as the media on this issue.”

Fast phone service

Ian Bell, a lorry driver, who had never owned a cell-phone, was a frequent user of the pay telephone at Weybridge Café, in Brooklands Road, and was greatly inconvenienced when the ‘phone broke down.

He made repeated requests for it to be repaired but sadly the telephone company only made promises.

After several days, Ian, decided to contact the phone company again and told them that there was no longer any hurry to repair the box. He added that the ‘phone was now working fine, concluding with ”except that all money was being returned to callers upon completion of each call.”

A repairman arrived within the hour.


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