State attorney general urges parents to limit children's TV time Curran, Howard officials urge use of TV diaries

February 20, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. has some simple advice for parents on how to reduce their children's exposure to media violence: Turn off the television.

Curran -- along with Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, Chief of Police James Robey, State's Attorney Marna McClendon and other county officials -- met in Long Reach High School's auditorium yesterday to launch the Howard portion of Curran's plan to distribute more than 600,000 media-violence diaries to elementary school children across the state.

But no one -- other than the officials -- showed up. That didn't stop Curran from urging parents to limit the amount of time their children watch television to two hours a day.

"We're not trying to be the thought police or censors," Curran said. "Television can be a wonderful tool if the images we see are good ones."

The event, sponsored by the Howard County Clergy for Social Justice, was part of Focus on Peace Week -- a series of talks, workshops and seminars planned in Columbia to teach adults and children new techniques in conflict resolution.

McClendon said that while violent television can be threatening, violence can reach children through the Internet and movies as well.

"We have to look where we spend our time and money as parents," she said. "There are dangerous things out there that our children are exposed to, and we need to talk to our children about our values, not the media's."

Howard County School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey linked the issue of violence in the media to the steep increase in recent years in violent crime committed by juveniles in Howard County. A third of all suspects arrested in felony cases in the county today are age 18 or younger, he said.

"We've been fortunate that the level of violence in Howard County pales in comparison to many of the surrounding counties," Hickey said, referring specifically to Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

"But we cannot overlook the fact that violence in schools has increased significantly, and our children see demonstrations of violence every day on television, where it's treated in an almost glorified way," he said.

Curran's plan to distribute the children's television diaries grew out of the release last fall of a report examining violence in media and its link to youth violence and from the national "Tune Out the Violence" day, observed Nov. 14.

Elementary school children are to use the diaries to record their TV viewing habits during a typical week, so that they and their parents can chart what they watch and how many hours of violent programming they view each day.

The diaries include addresses of 14 area television stations, to which parents are urged to write with complaints about programs containing excessive violence.

Curran said his office will talk to PTA groups and television stations around the state in a few months to gauge the success of the program.

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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