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W A S H I N G T O N, July 26 — Four national health associations today definitively linked violence in television, music, video games and movies to increased aggression in children.
“Its effects are measurable and long-lasting,” according to a joint statement by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life.”
The statement was the centerpiece of an public health summit on entertainment violence organized by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. in Washington D.C. today. Two panels of experts, one of which discussed traditional media, such as television and movies, and another which focused on the newer field of interactive technologies, such as video games, convened at the conference.
“The approach toward interactive media is still new and needs additional study,” said an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson today. The pediatrics association currently is running a public education campaign geared toward parents called Media Matters, but it focuses predominantly on media violence in television and movies.
The campaign encourages parents to critically view television and advises them to be more involved in their children’s viewing. According to the statement, the average American child spends 28 hours a week watching television and about an hour a day surfing the Internet or playing video games.
“The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behaviors, particularly in children,” the organizations’ statement says.
But, Laurence Steinberg, distinguished university professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, disagreed with the tone of today’s statement, saying, “To my knowledge, there is good evidence that watching violent television and film increases aggression in children. But there is a far cry between ‘aggression’ (which in most of the studies that have been done, could include things like pushing peers on the playground or acting agggressively in a lab situation) and serious violence. I know of no research to support the fact that watching violent tv or film makes children behave in ways that the general public thinks of when the word ‘violence’ is used.”
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