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Viewing media violence begets violence in some, officials say

WASHINGTON (BP)–Viewing violence in television and other media can result in an acceptance of and acting out of violence by some children, public health experts said July 26, contradicting the arguments of some in the entertainment industry.

In a statement released on Capitol Hill, officials with the American Medical Association and three other organizations said more than 1,000 studies during more than three decades point to a “causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children.” The public health community has concluded “viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children,” according to the statement.

While some in the entertainment business contend media violence is harmless because no studies demonstrate a connection with aggressiveness in children, and they argue children recognize programming on TV and other media as fantasy, “they are wrong on both counts,” the statement said.

The effects of viewing entertainment violence “are measurable and long-lasting,” according to the statement.

Though the impact of viewing violence will vary among children, there are some “measurable negative effects,” the health officials said. Among these:

— “Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.

— “Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume that acts of violence are acceptable behavior.

— “Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life. … [and] decrease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.”

Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., one of the sponsors of a summit held in conjunction with the statement’s release, said in a written release he hoped the event “will be a watershed in the way people think about entertainment violence — and that through empowering parents with more information on the health risks it poses, they will be better equipped to protect their children.”

In addition to the AMA, representatives of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry endorsed the statement.

The average American child watches TV as much as fours hours a day and typically plays video games or spends time on the Internet at least another hour daily, according to the document. This does not include several more hours weekly watching videos at home or movies in theaters and listening to music, the officials said.

“Eighteen-month-old children emulate what they see on television,” said J. Edward Hill, an AMA trustee, at the summit, according to the Internet news site CNSNews.com.

In the statement, the health officials express special concern about video games. Early studies of video games indicate the “negative impact may be significantly more severe” than that produced by TV, movies or music, according to the statement.

They are not seeking to restrict the entertainment industry’s freedom, Brownback and the health officials said.

Other members of Congress sponsoring the summit were Sens. Robert Byrd, D.-W.Va., and Kent Conrad, D.-N.D., and Reps. Tom Coburn, R.-Okla., and Tim Roemer, D.-Ind.