Vigilance against Violence
August 1997

“Vigilance against Violence,” Ensign, Aug. 1997, 73

Vigilance against Violence

Contention, especially violence, is not the way the scriptures teach us to deal with problems. Television, videos, movies, and electronic games that contain violence are beamed incessantly to our children, and as a result such “entertainment” poses increasing threats to them. Cartoons and other children’s programming often depict violence in amusing ways, with no one getting seriously hurt. Thus children begin to see at a very tender age that violent means are used repeatedly to solve problems.

More than 3,000 studies over the last four decades conclude that there is a direct connection between what happens on the screen and aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch the programs. One problem arises as people withdraw and lose touch with their own life experiences by sitting and watching vicarious life experiences that numb them to real people and real pain. A second problem lies in the addictive nature of violence, which can create an appetite for increasingly brutal behavior. A third problem is that some children are not taught how to control their anger and how to deal effectively with upsetting experiences.

It is vitally important that parents monitor or limit children’s exposure to media violence. Moreover, parents should consider their own viewing habits: if media violence negatively affects children, is it appropriate for adults? Parents who live a double standard in this regard undermine their efforts to make a lasting difference in the viewing habits of their children.

Here are some things parents can do to counter the negative influence of media violence:

  • Teach children that violence causes pain and suffering and is not something to be laughed at.

  • Examine with them the consequences of violent actions, both the harm it does to others as well as to the one who inflicts the violence.

  • Help children appreciate positive role models who exercise self-control, patience, tolerance, and mature judgment when dealing with difficult people and problems (see Prov. 15:1, 18; 1 Cor. 13:4–5).

  • Discuss with children alternative ways to solve problems. Ask them, “How else might this character have resolved his difficulty?” Try role playing other solutions.

  • Follow the prophets’ counsel to avoid R-rated films or any other films with inappropriate violence.

  • Monitor the media within the home. Watch television with children and talk about any violence that occurs. This should include news as well as entertainment programming.

Because of the increasingly violent nature of the world in which we live, parents need to be vigilant in curbing and monitoring children’s exposure to violence in the media.—Harold Oaks, professor of theater and media arts, Brigham Young University

Photography by Greg Frei

Illustrated by Scott Greer