Feature Archive

Disarming the TV

Violent television programming is harming kids, experts say. The solution? Use the tube as a teaching tool.

WebMD Feature

Sept. 22, 2000 -- Here's how television became the enemy for Peter and Addie Weverka of San Francisco. Their kids, Henry and Sofia, 5 and 6 years old, started clamoring to watch everything from World Federation Wrestling to Howard Stern. Then they got rowdy and started fighting over the remote. After a while, they lost interest in their homework and their chores. So Addie said, "That's it!" and took a pair of scissors to the power cord.

But going cold turkey proved painful for the Weverka family. After a few weeks of severe basketball withdrawal, Peter Weverka hooked up the television again, and the kids were soon ensconced in front of a horror film.

The Weverkas were right to be concerned: A growing body of evidence suggests that watching TV violence makes children more fearful and aggressive. But avoiding the small screen altogether is almost impossible in America. Instead, many psychologists are now recommending what the Weverkas later learned to do: watch television with your kids, and use the tube as a teaching tool.

Other health experts, and even politicians, are now joining the debate. In a summit on public health in July 2000, the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Psychological Association warned Congress that TV violence deeply influences children.