An Indiana University study has concluded that violence doesn’t add anything to children’s enjoyment of TV shows and movies.
In a research study Andrew J. Weaver, an assistant professor of telecommunications in IU’s College of Arts and Sciences, and his colleagues tested a common view presented by media producers that children like to watch violent programming. “For many producers and media critics the question is not if children love violence, but rather why children love violence,” Weaver and his co-authors wrote in the paper. “Our goal in this study was to examine children’s liking of violent content while independently manipulating the amount of action, which is often confounded with violence in the existing research” he added.
The researchers used a sample group of 128 school children, ranging from ages five to 11 and from kindergarten to the fourth grade. There were nearly equal number of boys and girls. What they found, on the basis of how they identified with the characters, was that violent content had an indirect negative effect on whether boys enjoyed a program.
“That was a little surprising,” said Weaver. “There is a lot of talk about boys being more violent and more aggressive, for whatever reason, social or biological, and yet we found that they identified with and liked the characters more when they were non-violent. They enjoyed the overall cartoon more” he said.
“This is good news. If producers are willing to work on making cartoons that aren’t violent and action packed, they can still capture their target audience better, without the harmful consequences,” added Weaver.
On the other hand, among the girls, violence did not decrease wishful identification of the characters. Weaver believes this may be because such slapstick cartoons are geared more towards boys than girls. Girls also perceived these characters as boys, even though they were created without sexual attributes. The study has been published in the journal Media Psychology.