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Violence on the airwaves

Rated R From terror to murderous sibling rivalry, new channels pull out all the stops. Here’s how to protect young children from such extreme imagery. Rhythma Kaul reports.

health and fitness Updated: Nov 25, 2012 01:20 IST
Rhythma Kaul

Violence ruled the airwaves over the past week: two brothers assisted by gunmen shot each other dead, the sole-surviving perpetuator of the 26/11 terror attack was hanged even as TV replayed clips of cops and terrorists shooting it out amid grand hotels going up in flames.

Exposure to graphic violence can impact a child’s mind for life. Yet even parents who monitor their child’s exposure to violence and gore on the net and in films, television shows and video games give little thought to violence in news content and discussions over dinner.

Violent images, be it in the news, cartoons or videogames, can influence young minds by making them aggressive and desensitised to violence. In extreme cases, it may even make some to believe violence is a necessary way of life.

When he saw his kids, son 8 and daughter 6, glued to the TV set, watching a violent action movie, Sahil Shroff’s first thought was to get rid of the TV, which was dumped in the store. That was three years ago, and Delhi-based banker’s fear of his kids getting hooked to blood and gore persists.

“I did not want my children to have any negative impression on their young minds as it is known that television could influence and shape a child’s behaviour.

Unfortunately, much of what is shown on TV these days is trash and I could not think of any other way of keeping my kids away from it,” said Shroff.

Experts, however, are against the denial approach to protect children. "It is not possible to shut the violence out completely as a lot of it is coming through mainstream television these days. Rather than shutting the television down when some violent scene is telecast, parents should instead use those moments to teach them," said Dr Samir Parikh, director, department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare.

The idea is to convert the aggressive stimulus to knowledge stimulus and make it a teaching moment for the children. “Parents should ensure kids feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and they should also simplify the conversation for them to understand the issue better,” he added. One way to do so is to take the glamour quotient away from violence and replace it with empathy quotient so that children can identify with.

Classroom discussions with peer participation play an important role in forming children’s attitude. Schools should have group discussions about these topics as purely acting as a wall between the content and children is not a solution.

“Schools aren’t only about mindless teaching anymore; these are spaces where children learn conflict resolution that’s to learn to come to terms with a lot of what’s happening around in the fragmented world,” says Ameeta Wattal, Principal, New Delhi’s Springdales School, Pusa Road. “In my school, every teacher is trained to develop a connection with children to help develop their personality and humanise them,” she adds.

Agrees Dr Rajesh Sagar, additional professor, department of psychiatry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences: “It is more important to intervene at the school level as s