Tune out the violence Kids and TV: Attorneys general, AMA join forces to promote healthier viewing habits.

November 12, 1996

CASTING AROUND FOR ways to do something more than worry about juvenile crime, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran hit upon a promising area for action: violence in the media. His concern meshed with those of other professionals dealing with public safety and health. The result is the kick-off of a national campaign aimed at drawing attention to the epidemic of violence that children encounter by watching television.

The joint efforts of the National Association of Attorneys General and the American Medical Association are now sparking widespread interest. On Thursday, parents across the country will be urged to "tune it out and turn it off." Beyond that gesture, the campaign is providing viewing diaries for parents to encourage them to see what their children are watching -- and to let broadcasters and producers know what they think.

Will it make a difference? That depends on whether parents accept the challenge to monitor their children's viewing habits and make their voices heard when they don't like what they see. There is plenty not to like.

The average child between the ages of 2 and 11 watches some 28 hours of television per week. Recent studies have documented that violent acts -- those intended to harm or injure others -- occur five to six times on prime time shows, but between 20 to 25 times on children's shows. Cable television and films available on video can be even worse. Add it all up and the typical American child watching between two and four hours of television a day will see more than 100,000 acts of violence by age 12, including some 8,000 murders.

Increasingly, researchers are finding that movies and television shows are simply vehicles for violence, with little relationship to the plot. When there is no rational cause and there are no clear consequences for harming someone else, children can easily conclude that violence produces no pain, suffering, sorrow or remorse.

Mr. Curran deserves support for this initiative. If enough viewers express their opinions to broadcasters, television could become a kinder, gentler presence in children's lives.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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