Take remote control of the TV violence entering your home

MIKE LITTWIN

July 02, 1993|By MiKE LITTWIN

You say there's too much violence on TV? I've got a solution for you that doesn't involve Congress and it doesn't involve censorship. All it involves is you.

It's easy, too.

Just turn off the set.

If you don't want your children watching the blood-soaked screen, hit the off button. If you don't know where it is, consult your manual.

And if you've lost the manual and can't find the off button, try pulling the plug on that big-screen, stereo, surround-sound, budget-busting home-entertainment center once in a while.

We all know the truth here, don't we? Study after study shows a clear relationship between TV violence and aggressiveness in children. Of course it does. TV sells violence the same way it sells soap and cars and beer, although I'm not convinced the murder and mayhem turn kids into serial killers.

There is, however, the well-known statistic that the average child will see 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on the TV screen before he or she finishes elementary school.

Whose fault is that?

It's easy to blame the networks. It's easy because the people who run your TV networks are irresponsible sleazoids who will throw anything on the screen to make a buck. I can give you the proof in two words: Amy Fisher. All four networks found it necessary to run movies of her sordid life.

These are not responsible people. They are addicts who gladly feed on children to satisfy their ratings habit.

So, why do you entrust your kids to them?

Blaming the networks for showing violence is like blaming the snake for being a snake. It is the nature of the beast.

Here's the dirty little secret we don't like to face up to.

If that typical kid sees 8,000 murders by the time he or she makes middle school, it's because that typical Kiddus americanus watches TV more than five hours a day.

Whose fault is that?

So, now Congress is getting involved, trying to protect us from the networks and from ourselves. You have to like the hearings. You have to like seeing the network heads squirming and pretending they have something in mind other than making a buck.

The networks have responded, in their way. In an effort to head off legislation, they have agreed to put a "V-for-violence" warning on some shows.

Will this make a difference?

You're kidding, right? You think we don't already know which shows are violent? There's no mystery here. TV movies about serial killers are violent. "Cosby" reruns are not.

The point is, when we know which shows are violent, it doesn't seem to make any difference.

Let's talk about the real world. Say you've got a 12-year-old kid. What kind of odds would you give that the kid has somehow managed to see Ah-nuld as the Terminator?

We know these movies are violent. They're R-rated. We know the kids like them, too. The kids persuade their parents to rent the videos, and they plug them right into their VCRs. Or they watch them on cable.

Look, it can be tough to be a responsible parent. There are many single parents these days. There are many two-paycheck parents. Lots of kids are home in the afternoon unsupervised.

I wish they were doing their homework or even playing ball. But as it turns out, there are probably worse places for these kids to be than in front of the tube. Most of your afternoon TV is relatively harmless -- a mix of news and cartoons and sitcom reruns and PG movies. Mindlessness is the big problem here.

Like your basic blood-sucking vampire, the TV stations wait for the sun to go down to hit you in the neck. That's when they get the ratings. Parents are usually home. Often, I would guess, they're watching these shows with their kids.

And cartoons -- are they too violent? They're probably no more violent than fairy tales in which children are stuffed into ovens and foxes devour grandmothers.

I don't think watching Wile E. Coyote getting blown up by the Road Runner is going to ruin our youth.

There's real-life violence all around us. There have been 172 murders in Baltimore in half a year as the city shoots for another record. Gun control may be a more important issue for Congress to consider than what we do with our remote controls.

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