March 14, 2003
Researchers recently completed a study of 329 kids who grew up watching television in the 1970s. They wanted to see if what they watched as kids had any influence on them as they became adults.
After following the lives of these TV watching kids, the researchers found that as adults the men in the group had been convicted of crimes three times more often than other men. They were apparently also considered more likely to commit traffic violations and domestic abuse. Women were reported to be four times as likely to have punched or choked someone else, or thrown things at their husbands.
The researchers want us to believe that watching violent TV can lead to a life of violence.
The only violence in our household was over who got to pick the TV show. Except when my sister insisted on watching Little House on the Prairie, which had the effect of making both my brother and me feel homicidal.
Some of the 1970s TV shows identified by the researchers as "very violent" are the Roadrunner cartoons and The Six Million Dollar Man. Maybe its because I was raised on a steady diet of the Roadrunner and The Six Million Dollar Man that I dont think of them as "very violent". The worst that ever happened on the Roadrunner was the coyote was left seeing stars or temporarily flat after having a large rock fall on him.
Even so, with this new research Im concerned about how it might now be used by criminals to defend their behaviour.
We take you to a parole hearing on the subject, now in progress
"Ladies and gentlemen of the parole board, next up we have Mr. Louie Toones who is seeking early release. Mr. Toones, what do you have to say in your favour?"
"Thank you. First of all Id like to say that I now know that television violence made me the man I am today. It was those shows that put those crazy thoughts into my head in the first place. Like wearing roller skates and tying a big magnet to my waist so I could follow someone after trying to feed ball bearings to them. Or walking into a bank vault after smearing myself with vanishing cream."
"Mr. Toones, you were also convicted of attempting a very violent crime. Is that not so?"
"Yes, I regret that is true. Thankfully I bought all my dynamite from a company called Acme, and every stick of it was a dud - except for the one I thought had gone out, and when I tried to relight it, it blew all my hair off."
"For those members of the panel who are unfamiliar with the case, Mr. Toones was finally apprehended after he accidentally dropped an anvil on his own head. As the photos show, when he was arrested all you could see was a pair of feet sticking out from under a hat."
"Id like to assure the parole board that Im a changed man."
"And how are we supposed to believe this, Mr. Toones?"
"For the past five years Ive been watching whats now on TV for kids on Saturday mornings. Its all cartoons about raccoons dealing with peer pressure at school, or bears frolicking in the woods and respecting a multicultural forest."
"Thank you Mr. Toones. It sounds like youve suffered enough. After lunch well hear from a prisoner who was a fan of The Six Million Dollar Man. He is up before us for his recent escape attempt. He might of made it too, except for some reason he can only run in slow motion."