Effects of Television on Children

What Is the Evidence?

by George A. Comstock

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Summarizes the literature on children's television viewing and its effects on attitudes and behavior. The influence of televised violence on aggressive and antisocial behavior was the subject of seven Congressional hearings and two major nationwide studies from 1952 to 1974. Synthesizing apparently discrepant reviews of the research reveals that both sides of the controversy actually agree that empirical research has demonstrated that children show increased aggressiveness after viewing television violence, especially when violence is shown as effective. Where they disagree is over the importance to be attached to this fact. The true debate is hidden. There is continuing argument over the substantive findings, but none over the alternative criteria for alarm, or the effect of the form in which the evidence is arrayed. Analysis should be refocused on these neglected questions. However, it would be perfectly reasonable for parents and others to demand a reduction in television violence solely on the grounds that it temporarily makes young people unruly. (Presented at 1975 Telecommunications Policy Research Conference at Airlie House, Virginia, April 1975.)

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