Is TV Nastiness Contagious? Trends and Truth Online with Mike Nappa

 

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We’ve known for some time that watching violent scenes on TV can desensitize kids to real-world violence and sometimes lead to more aggressive behavior. But what about watching “relational aggression”―that is, social unkindness―on TV? A new study seems to indicate that watching nasty characters on television also impacts the way viewers think and behave.

Researchers from Iowa State University, Brigham Young University, and Linfield College discovered that when people watch TV shows featuring relational aggression (such as bullying, gossiping, and social exclusion) that can influence the way they behave afterward. 
 
“This matters,” says one of the study’s authors, “because relational aggression tends to be considered more socially acceptable―it’s often portrayed on television as funny and how friends treat each other. Yet, several studies are starting to show that relational aggression can cause long-term harm.”
 
So what’s a Christian parent to do? 
 
Some would suggest that parents kick television out of the house, or blanket-censor programs their kids want to watch. Others just shrug and say “Oh well, TV kids will be TV kids.” But both of those parenting approaches are extreme―and they often cause more harm than health. 
 
Why not talk to your kids about their TV programs instead? 
 
If your children are aware of the dynamics they’re seeing on TV, they can respond thoughtfully instead of instinctively―and grow to become young adults who are better able to discern the truth in both the media and real life.
 
Here are a few questions to get your family discussion started on this topic: 
  • When was the last time you saw someone acting in a mean way on a television show? What happened?
  • What goes through your mind when you see someone acting nasty toward others on TV? 
  • Some people say that watching bullies on TV makes kids more likely to act like bullies in real life. What do you think?
  • TV is fake, and TV characters often act mean just to be funny or just to make the story more interesting. Why might it be dangerous to act the same way in your real life as characters do on TV?
  • Ephesians 4:32 encourages us to, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Does that mean we should never watch a TV show where someone is mean? Defend your answer.
  • There’s a saying that goes: “Just because you see it, doesn’t mean you have to imitate it.” How might that help you follow Ephesians 4:32 next time you watch TV? 
 
Have a pop culture question for Trends & Truths? Email it to parentlife@lifeway.com!
 
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Mike Nappa is a bestselling author, a noted commentator on pop culture, and founder of the website for parents, FamilyFans.com

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