Violence on television is practically inescapable for many television viewers as even network television shows often showcase some manner of violence during a season. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the typical child in America will watch between three and four hours of television daily. The AACAP also suggests that children are highly impressionable, thus increasing the possibility of encouraging acts of violence later in life. The reasons why television affects children can be summed up into three areas.
Television violence affects children through a psychological process referred to as desensitization. According to the AACAP, this process suggests that after prolonged exposure to viewing violent acts on television, children will become numb to what they are seeing and cease to link negative feelings with violent acts. In other words, children become more accepting of violence as an every-day occurrence and can struggle to view the act as being unacceptable. Furthermore, the AACAP suggests that children will instead view violence as an acceptable manner to solve problems in life.
Children tend to imitate actions they see. As the AACAP suggests, a child viewing a violent act on television can be tempted to imitate the violence they observe. Aggressiveness tends to increase in children who watch a great deal of violent television shows, thus increasing the likelihood of imitating an act they observe. As the AACAP website states, children can be influenced in this manner after watching a single violent television episode, especially if the child is not monitored by an adult during exposure to the show. The likelihood of imitation increases when the violent acts depicted go unpunished in the specific television episode.
Children exposed to violent television can, over time, alter their moods to a more hostile affect, according to an article on the ParentsTV.org website. By the time an average child turns 18 years old, he will have witnessed 200,000 violent acts on television, including 8,000 murders. The article goes on to state that witnessing repeated, unpunished acts of violence increases general feelings of hostility within the child and can lead to lack of empathy for human suffering.