TV and Bullying

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According to a recent study done by Nicole Martins, PhD, which appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Communication, children under eight years old may not be able to make the connection between the bullying they see on television and the moral of the story at the end of the episode, which explains that the previous bullying was bad.

If you have ever seen a children’s show on Disney or Nickelodeon you know that bullying is prevalent on children’s television shows. Bullying is used for humor, to tell a story, or to teach a lesson. According to Martin, bullying used for humor is very common in shows meant for teenagers and tweens rather than younger children, but that typically doesn’t stop young children from watching these shows. In those teen shows, the “’mean girls’ generally get their comeuppance, but younger kids may not connect this with the earlier actions.” Young children see the bullying, hear people laughing, think it’s funny, and that masks what it really is.

Additionally, Martin found that many children watch shows that are meant for a more adult audience, such as “American Idol, Family Guy, and Fear Factor.” Often, young children watch shows with their parents, which may not be suited for them. Hearing Simon tear apart every contestant on American Idol or X Factor, with no one reprimanding him could have the effect of teaching children bullying is acceptable behavior.

Martin suggests the parents need to be more “aware that the shows their children watch may be promoting the message that social aggression is OK or even cool.” She suggests parents use bullying on television as an opportunity to teach children a lesson about bullying and how it “can hurt people’s feelings.” While I think Marin is correct in that parents can use these shows to teach children about bullying, I think the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board needs to do a better job of monitoring these shows, and reassess the current TV ratings they give children’s shows.

For more see Social Bullying Common in TV Shows Kids Watch by Salynn Boyles, WebMD Health News, click here.

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