Wisconsin Parental Evaluations of Legislative and Non-legislative Solutions to Violence on Television
Sims, Judy R.
Wisconsin Communication Association
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Since the early 1950s, television programming containing violent content has concerned citizens in the United States. The first congressional hearings on TV violence and its impact on children and youth occurred in June 1952. It was not until 1990 however that legislation was enacted to address TV violence (TV Violence Act of 1989, P.L. 101—650, 1990). Although at least five pieces of congressional legislation related to TV violence were proposed between 1989 and 1993, little information has been gathered concerning parental evaluations of such legislation. The purpose of this research was to examine Wisconsin parental evaluations of potential solutions–legislative and non-legislative–to the problem of TV violence. This paper reviews Congressional legislative actions (legislation, resolutions, and endorsements) proposed between 1989 and 1993 pertaining to violent content on television. These legislative actions then are considered in light of the results of a 1994 survey questionnaire administered to a purposive and convenience sample of 877 parents or legal guardians of children ages 3-12 in west-central Wisconsin. The questionnaire, which featured both closed and open-ended questions, gathered data concerning parental evaluations of the proposed congressional legislation, warnings/advisories, and other non-legislative solutions to violence on television. Although the questionnaire achieved only a 40% response rate, evidence exists to claim a representative sample. Quantitative data were analyzed with the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software program. Qualitative data generated from the open-ended questions were coded and content-analyzed by the two primary researchers. According to the results, the parents or legal guardians ranked “parental control” as their first choice for the most effective solution to violent content on television. Parental control and involvement may, in fact, be the most effective solution for regulating children’s viewing of TV violence. Parental involvement in TV viewing has been shown to produce positive behaviors in children (Cantor and Harrison, 1995); however, many parents who work outside the home may be unable to control and monitor their children’s viewing. A potential solution for working parent households is a “safe harbor” viewing period, which was ranked as second choice by the parents or legal guardians. The term “safe harbor” derived from the Children’s Protection from Violent Programming Act, which was proposed in 1993. The “safe harbor” legislation would have directed the Federal Communications Commission to prohibit the broadcast of TV programs containing violent content during hours of high child viewership. The 1993 bill however was not enacted; nevertheless, the idea of “safe harbor” has been considered an attractive solution by many with concerns about TV violence, and another version of the bill likely will be introduced in the future. The third ranked most effective solution to violent content on television according to the parents and legal guardians was “warnings/advisories.” Although results from a 1991 study by Cantor and Harrison (1995) also showed warnings/advisories were perceived as necessary, one must question if they may alternatively serve as a “magnet” for certain child viewers. In order to guide policy makers and others concerned with TV violence, it is imperative that scholars continue to research public opinions of proposed congressional legislation and other possible non-legislative solutions such as media literacy programs, innovative blocking technologies, and Harvard’s Center for Health Communication’s “Squash It,” campaign (Connolley, 1995; Rubin, 1995). In the meantime, concerned parents can use tools such as the v-chip and strategies of media literacy education to guide their children’s TV viewing. Parents and legal guardians as well as a child’s social, cultural, and family environment can influence the kinds of messages children gather from television, how they use television, and how “literate” they are as viewers. Equipped with such tools, parents and legal guardians can work to address the growing problem of violence in US. American culture and the media. (Contains 41 References; Seven Figures; Appendix A: Legislation and Endorsements Concerning Violence on Television; Appendix B: Legislative and Non-legislative Solutions Concerning Violence on Television).
Children’s Protection from Violent Programming Act
Congressional legislation related to TV violence
Legislative and non-legislative solutions to TV violence
Parents TV Empowerment Act
Simon-Glickman Television Act
Television and Radio Program Violence Reduction Act
Television Violence Reduction Through Parental Empowerment Act
TV Violence Act of 1989
Violent content on television
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