Dear Friends, Parents & Adults concerned by Children's Rights and Media Violence,
You have probably heard about the United Nations Secretary General's Study on Violence Against Children. You can find more about the Study at this address: <http://www.violencestudy.org/r25>
The S-G mandated Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro as an Independent Expert to prepare the Study. EDUPAX sent him a report titled
«Promising Practices By North American Civil Society To Protect Children From Media Violence».
The Report was posted on the Child Rights Information Network's website (CRIN) : http://www.crin.org/violence/search/closeup.asp?infoID=9187
We need your help in regard with this issue.
Why does media violence deserve attention and where does it fit in the S-G Study on Violence Against Children ?
When compared to famine, corporal punishment, abduction and traficking, pedophilia, landmines and slavery, maltreatment of disabled & mentally ill, media violence might look minor since it is happening in comfortable and safe homes. In fact, when researchers study damages made to children in industrialized countries, they conclude that television hurts millions of children very deeply and that most damages will affect them lifelong.
Attracting Children is a Lucrative Industry
Media violence is primarily used in entertainment to attract human beings, particularly the less experienced, the youngests. It is used to train them to watch television, movies, music videos, videogames and adversing messages. Why does it work ? Because human beings can hardly turn their head away when they witness their fellow human beings suffering or when they see pain inflicted on them. Using violence as a marketing ingredient is a very cruel form of child abuse because
1) children cannot make a difference between fiction and reality,
2) it is made with the use of psychology, a science to heal, not to abuse.
The process of making the difference between fiction and reality starts at the age of 7 and is not over before the age of 13. Unfortunately, for many children, the process is completed much later.
An Industry Targeting the Most Vulnerable
Despite children's vulnerability, despite repeated calls to ethics by the scientific community and child rights advocates, violence is commonly and increasingly used by both the entertainment and the marketing industries for commercial purposes. Increasing the audience means monetary profits in the short term despite the enormous short, mid and long term negative effects for children. Well over a thousand studies have linked television with numerous marketing related diseases (MRD) such as obesity, body image, self esteem, violent crime, physical and verbal abuse, eating disorders, smoking, alcool, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, compulsive consumerism, perilous car driving, and various forms of addiction. Exposure to violent entertainment does not only show and teach how to act violently. In the child's inexperienced brain, it also links pain infliction with pleasure.
Media Violence Hurts Twice
No surprize when kids imitate the Ninja Turtles, the Power Rangers and the Pokemon at school during recess or at home with brothers and sisters. But when a child acts out, we, as adults, know that other kids will experience pain and injuries because his friend imitated these characters. Media violence must not be criticized only for the kid exposed to it, but also for those who will suffer from his behavior. Violence was not created by the media but the media helped increasing the occurence, the damages and the pain for millions of children around the world. The entertainment industry often has asserted that the amount of violence in the media merely mirrors the reality of violence in society (West, 1993). A well known film critic compared media violence and real-life violence and concluded that if the murder rate presented during an average evening of television was real, «in just 50 days everyone in the United States would be killed». (Michael Medved, 1995, quoted by Unicef-Canada, Regional Report on Violence Against Children in North America, June 2006)
Damages Documented Scientifically
The effect of media violence is
bigger than the effect of exposure to second hand smoke on lung cancer,
bigger than the effect of exposure to lead on brain functions in children,
bigger than the effect of calcium intake on bone mass,
bigger than the effect of homework on academic achievement,
bigger than the effect of asbestos exposure on cancer.
(Testimony before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing, by Professor Craig Anderson.)
These effects are short-term: aggression increases immediately after viewing a violent TV show or movie. The long-term effect is that children who watch a lot of violent shows become more violent as adults than they would have become had they not been exposed to so much TV and movie violence.
Playing videogames has shown to deprive parts of the brain from electric stimulation and to be responsible for the atrophy of the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is where humans control their impulsions. The lack of stimulation at child age will affect human all their life. «Videogames give children and teens the skill, the will and the thrill to kill» (Lt Col Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano, co author of «Stop Teachin Our Kids To Kill»).
School Bullying & Youth Crime
Research also revealed that time exposure to media violence is actually linked with school bullying.
In the U.S., school authorities have noticed that for the last 20 years, violence has hit lower grades and that media violence was a major factor.
Media violence is also linked with later criminal activity as shown by this 17-year study in which 700 young people were tracked down into their adult lives. Hours of viewing were correlated with acts of aggression.
The most alarming effect of exposure to violent entertainment is DESENSITIZATION, i.e. the reduction of empathy. Massive exposure to violent entertainment has shown to reduce the capacity and the will to rescue victims or to report about them. Massive exposure to media violence desensitizes to other forms of violence and reduces the power of solidarity between human beings. Media violence must be considered an obstacle to reducing other cruel forms of violence against children such as famin, corporal punishment, abduction and traficking, pedophilia, landmines and slavery, maltreatment of disabled & mentally ill.
Please find here (below) a letter to Professor Pinheiro and a draft resolution asking him to include «promising practices developed in Canada and the U.S. to protect children from media violence». We ask you as an individual and your organization to sign and forward both the letter and the resolution to the Independant Expert. This will show that child protection from media violence is important to you.
EDUPAX has received tremendous support from an organization named Positive Entertainment for Children Everywhere, (PEACE) active in the field of child protection from media violence.
Please send copies of both the letter and the resolution to the addresses listed below. After receiving copy of your letter, EDUPAX will keep your name posted with those of other helping organizations and individuals. Please circulate this invitation to your contacts.
Our aim is double.
1) Media violence MUST BE INCLUDED in the S-G Study on Violence Against Children,
2) Real PROMISING PRACTICES must find their way into the S-G Study.
Let us hope that these inclusions will be done despite any lobbying from those who deny any responsibility for child-abusive entertainment violence.
Thank you for your attention,
Jacques Brodeur, Consultant in the Fields of Violence Prevention, Peace Education and Media Education,