=> KARACHI, Jan 12: Experts at a seminar held here on
KARACHI, Jan 12: Experts at a seminar held here on Saturday lambasted the negative role the media has played in exposing people, particularly children, to violence, which, in turn, desensitizes them and in certain cases prompts them to mimic the brutal acts they see on screen.
“Exposure to violent media has long-lasting effects and these effects can even appear in households with a ‘good’ atmosphere,” said Dr Ehsan Ullah Syed, a consultant psychiatrist in his presentation titled ‘Violence in media: how it affects children and families.’
The seminar was organized by the Aga Khan University Hospital as part of its ‘Signs, symptoms and care’ public health awareness programme at the facility’s auditorium.
“Do you know what your child is watching right now?” Dr Syed asked the audience as a montage of violent news clips taken from local television played above him on a large screen.
He divided violent content on TV into two categories: movies and other fictional programmes and news coverage. If children are exposed to violent heroes on TV, they would adopt that behaviour as they treat the on-screen antics as reality, he said.
He cited the example of Japan, which he said had one of the most violent media in the world. “But the Japanese censors make sure the negative consequences of violence are also shown” to balance things out, he added.
As for news programmes, he said when children watched violent incidents on the news, they were exposed to stress, which would develop into fear and further still could translate into violent behaviour. He cited the example of the spate in school shootings in the United States.
“Violent TV isn’t the only reason behind violence in society, but it is one of the major factors. Also, the media and broadcasters do not always reflect local or national trends,” he said, showing the slide of a Pakistani film poster with the hero drenched in blood. “Is this what Pakistanis are like?” he asked.
He also said music videos had largely negative effects, usually promoting drug and alcohol use, graphic violence and nudity, citing an article in the Harvard University Gazette. “People think violence and tomfoolery in music videos is funny, but they don’t realize its far-reaching effects,” he said.
‘Weapons of mass deception’
Urging parents to monitor what their children watch, he asked them to “remove the TV from both your and your children’s bedrooms and monitor their internet usage. Provide them alternative activities.” He concluded with the plea that parents should protect their offspring from these “weapons of mass deception.”
Dr Nargis Asad, a psychologist, in her speech titled Â‘Playing with fire: how violence manifests in society,’ said violence had many forms and was not limited to physical violence, adding that “depriving people of their rights was also a form of violence.”
She pointed out that self-directed violence started off from behaviour such as slashing one’s wrists and could culminate in suicide bombing.
“All these types of violence, including domestic violence, result in physical and psychological symptoms, which women are shy about expressing and general practitioners are often not able to diagnose. So often, these psychological problems go unnoticed. Also, there is a tolerance of abuse in our society, as humiliating someone is considered acceptable behaviour,” she said.
As for child abuse, Dr Asad said that according to a recent survey, one in five girls and one in 10 boys were sexually abused in the country. She was also critical of the media, as she said that even nursery-level children were prematurely exposed to certain content, which they would mimic, at an age when they are unable to distinguish right from wrong.
She said if children are not provided an identity, they would identify with group identities, with some potentially being attracted to groups which glorify activities like suicide bombing.
“Violence and anti-social behaviour has roots in childhood. Kids with low IQs and learning difficulties are also violence-prone. Violent behaviour is maintained if it pays off,” she said, giving the example of youths idolising those who forced the closure of classes or displayed other macho traits.
“Society as a whole has a role to control this behaviour,” she said.
Dr Murad Moosa Khan, a psychiatrist speaking on the subject of ‘Pakistan burning: causes of violence in our society,’ said that it is the government’s responsibility to frame social policies that tackle the issues of the common man.