Go ahead and take the ‘Violence Fast Pledge’

If ever there was something we can support and promote and encourage without any reservations, “The Media Violence Fast Pledge” is it. That’s a pledge, which some students on Kauai are making, to avoid violent TV programs, movies and video games Tuesday through Monday.

That’s not saying it will be easy to adhere to this pledge. After all, pretty much every time you turn on the TV on one of the main networks, the show is more than likely to center on two subjects: Violence and sex. Try to rent a movie at Redbox and look through the offerings. The majority are based on the three D’s: death/destruction/demonic. And the most popular video games almost always include shooting, stabbing and killing.

Sorry, but popular, iconic shows like “Little House on the Prairie,” “The Waltons,” “The Brady Bunch,” and “Leave it to Beaver” went out of style decades ago. Does anyone remember steadfast John Boy telling about his family’s challenges on Walton Mountain? Who recalls why Marcia, Jan and Cindy formed one big family with Greg, Peter and Bobby? And that little Beaver guy, wasn’t he always getting into some kind of harmless trouble? The theme of those shows was old-fashioned, wholesome goodness. In their day, they were wildly successful and watched by millions. People in them were ridiculously kind and courteous and respectful and looked out for one another rather than looked for ways to get at someone.

Ah, but that was another generation ago. Times change. Not many people anymore want to watch TV shows about families working hard, being thankful, having fun and making us laugh.

Violence and sex are in. That’s where the rating are. That’s what puts people in movie theater seats. That’s what gets them to turn on the TV. The chance to kill someone over and over is what makes a good video game.

OK, so you ask, so what? Does it matter whether your 10-year-old is watching The Muppets or Vampire Diaries.

Some studies say, yes, it does.

A 2010 review by psychologist Craig A. Anderson and others concluded that “the evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.”

Dr. Gail Gross wrote this: “Studies show that violence on television does have an adverse affect on children and the way they think and act. This is true not only for young children, but some recent studies indicate that watching violence on television can even impact adults.”

Dr. Eugene V Beresin had this to say: “Some researchers have demonstrated that very young children will imitate aggressive acts on TV in their play with peers. Before age 4, children are unable to distinguish between fact and fantasy and may view violence as an ordinary occurrence.”

Sure, there are certainly studies out there, likely funded by the movie, TV and video game industries, that will show the opposite, that children watching someone slashed to death or having their head explode makes no difference on their psyche. After all, don’t millions of kids watch such programs and play such games today? Common sense would indicate it does.

That said, we encourage parents to take an interest in the movies, TV shows and video games their children watch and play. Chat with them about it. See what they like. Perhaps consider watching the Discovery Channel or the History Channel.

And we definitely encourage Kauai’s youth to consider taking the “The Media Violence Fast Pledge,” which is part of a “Media Smart” Project hosted by Koolau Hui’ia Church, the Kauai Association United Church of Christ, and Kanuikapono Charter School.

This world could benefit from the likes of “Mayberry R.F.D.” What’s that, you ask? Oh, it was a show about a kindly sheriff, a goofy deputy, sweet Aunt Bee and innocent Opie Taylor. Just their daily life in a little town where people, for some reason, were nice to each other. Who would watch such a show? These days, sadly, hardly anyone.

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