A standard Sunday afternoon in our home goes a little something like this:
The kids (aged 6 months and 2) get up from their naps around 2.30pm. My husband and I play with them in between cooking up a bit of food for the week and doing mundane tasks like washing, cleaning etc. The television is always on, showing either Rugby or UFC. Both high-contact sports. We then have dinner together as a family around 5.30pm.
Now, I don’t mind watching these sports. I’m into them, a fact which my husband loves. But lately, as our eldest gets to an age where he understands EVERYTHING, I’ve started to wonder what effect watching these sports is having on him.
Like most little boys his age, by attending childcare he’s learnt to push other kids. He also gets overexcited and hits people in the face – it’s an enthusiastic thing, but is definitely misunderstood as ‘lashing out’.
He’s also taken to tackling his baby sister around the neck. HARD. As in, he would choke her if I didn’t intervene. It’s all out of love. He is quite obsessed with her.
So, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a correlation between the sports we watch on the weekends and these behaviours. I don’t think he understands the difference between a sport, or make believe, and real life.
Studies show that violence on television certainly does have an adverse affect on children and the way they think and act. Dr Gail Gross, an expert in human behaviour and parenting, says kids learn from both experience and role modelling, so when they see violence on TV they can’t really differentiate between what is real and what is make believe.
The time I felt like a terrible mother. Post continues after video…
The link between exposure to violence in the media and violent behaviour has been studied a thousand times over, with nearly all research pointing towards a definite correlation.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behaviour, desensitisation to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.” Watching violent shows is also linked with having less empathy toward others.
Of course, the impact that seeing violence on TV has on children depends on a number of factors, including what they watch, how much they watch, their age and personality, and whether an adult is supervising what they watch and talks to them about it.
More from the American Academy of Pediatrics; “Though a violent act on television may be short lived, its effect on a child can be long term. Some kids may act out the next day on the playground or in the daycare center. Some may be dearly attached to thoughts and feelings for years before implementing what was learned in childhood.”
So, now I know that the evidence is clear – there is a definite correlation between media violence and children’s behaviour.
When it comes to sport, I want our boy to grow up being active and involved in as many sports as he wants. I guess it’s just a matter of doing what I thought we should do - limiting his exposure to the more violent sports like UFC (sorry husband, you’ll have to record it from now on!) and when he sees violent acts on TV in movies like The Avengers (his current fave) I’ll be explaining the context behind that. He understands a lot more than we think, so I’m sure with repetition he’ll start to get it. And hopefully, this will pay off in real life as well.
Mum life hey, there's always something to stress about and work on with your child – but we wouldn’t change it for anything.