‘Scenes of violence on TV adversely affect kids’
By: Shahid Husain
Karachi: Scenes of violence and disaster on TV channels are causing stress and anxiety among children. Experts say children who frequently watch coverage of terrorist attacks, gruesome murders or other traumatic events often complain of stress, anxiety, and unexplained fear.
“In Pakistan a vast majority of population comprises children and news presenters do not realise the far-fetched repercussions their words have on juvenile minds,” said Sohema Rehan, the coordinator at Dialogue, an interactive forum on human psychology.
“The element of sensationalism in news reports, especially while covering bad or negative incidents, is responsible for this problem.”
She said the society was fed with real-time news 24 hours a day. “TV channels and news websites in Pakistan are bombarded with unfolding events from bomb blasts to the private lives of public figures.”
Research has shown that children and adolescents are prone to take personally what they see and hear on TV, a kind of contagion effect described as “copy cat” events.
“Chronic and persistent exposure to such violence can lead to fear, desensitisation, and in some cases children develop an aggressive and violent behaviour,” says Rehan.
Such practices are making the youth immune to violence. Given the everyday rate killings in the city, many children in Karachi, as young as five and six, are seen keeping a count of murders just to inform their parents that they are plugged to the news.
Experts believe that in spite of getting lucrative packages and training, anchorpersons in the country are under pressure to get news to the public. In the process, they indulge in detailed and repetitive visual coverage of violence.
Prof Dr Fouzia Naeem Khan, another psychologist and dean of the faculty of the Sindh Madressatul Islam University’s Management Sciences, says such shows can make children less sensitive to the pain and sufferings of others. “They may be more fearful of the world. Such kids have increased feeling of hostility and decreased emotional response.
According to a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recently, the law and order situation in the country deteriorated even further last year: There was an alarming increase in target killings in Karachi. “It became clear that the writ of the state was withering away in the largest city of the Pakistan,” it was stated in the report titled “State of Human Rights in 2012”.
On an average, between eight and 10 people are killed in Karachi every day. No wonder it has been dubbed one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
“In some cities worldwide, statistics report a decrease in the incidence of crime. Yet, the reporting of crime news has increased 240 percent. Local news shows often lead with or break into programming to announce crime reports and devote as much as 30 percent of the broadcast time to detailed crime reporting,” says Rehan.
She advises the managements of television channels should keep all these facts in mind before finalising a policy for what they broadcast, especially in terms of time broadcast.
“Viewer discretion guidelines should be more stringent, publicised and followed thoroughly.”
Rehan says the possible negative effects of news can be lessened by parents, teachers, or other adults by watching the news with the child and talking about what has been seen or heard.
“The child’s age, maturity, development, life experiences, and vulnerabilities should be kept in mind to determine what kind of news they watch.”