How Much Does the Media Influence Children? Tips for Parental Involvement

How Much Does the Media Influence Children? Tips for Parental Involvement
Page content

Learn From The Past

On the night before his execution, Ted Bundy sat in a quiet room talking to Dr. James Dobson, psychologist and media personality, about the effects of pornography and violent media on his life. He stated that at one time he had been an upright person, a scholar, but pornography had pulled him away. He had become someone he no longer knew, someone people were afraid of, a monster.

How did this evolution begin? No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain. The effect of violent media on the mind is so complex, apparent and real that no one can deny it.

Many said Bundy was not remorseful but only wished to try to gain some sort of clemency for his acts. The point is that he shared his road to destruction with the world that night, warning others that a kid can become a killer if exposed to violence in media at impressionable ages when other factors are in place.

One interesting fact Ted Bundy revealed during this interview was that every single person Bundy knew in the Florida State Prison had been exposed to pornography. They were addicted to it, as he was. They acted out their addictions on others.

What about the countless young people exposed to less obvious forms of unhealthy media, such as gun violence, fighting and brutality? What effect is this having? Have you noticed an increase in gun violence on school campuses? Could violent movies and games put the thought of violence in children’s heads?

Is This Unique?

Perhaps the Ted Bundys of the world are unique in that they are more capable of being influenced in such a way that they are motivated to commit such atrocities as Ted did. Yet even those of us who could never do such a thing know the influence media has on our minds, if we are honest with ourselves. We may choose to watch only appropriate media, but what about the violent movies and TV shows that overrun cable?

Some modern-day killers identify with movie characters, such as the young man in Colorado who shot people at random in a movie theatre one night, saying that he was The Joker, (referring to Batman) and seeming to enjoy what he was doing. There is no doubt that violent media influences behavior, the only question is when and how much.

What Can Parents Do?

Lessen the chances of your kids’ exposure to media that may be harmful to their development. Here are a few tips that you can put into use today.

  • Watch TV with your kids. This gives you a chance to guide their experience and discuss topics that arise. For example, if the show was about bullying other kids, ask your child thought about it. If you discover they side with the bully, ask why. This may give you a chance to address issues or emotions your child may have of which you were unaware.
  • Talk to your child’s counselor or teachers if you are concerned about the effects of media and limit what they watch. As a parent, you have a right to control what your children watch. You have a responsibility to limit their access to unhealthy material. In addition, expressing your concerns will help the school counselor help you monitor the behavior of your child and to alert you to any concerns.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Make it clear that you are concerned about their behaviors if you believe there is a problem tied to the media to which they are exposed. Be aware of what they are accessing on iPads and other devices, what their friends are watching, the games they play and so forth.
  • Finally, teach kids that media is for entertainment, information and interaction. We should expose ourselves to as much positive media as possible so that it will balance out the negative images we are bombarded with every day. Tell them that you are there for them with any questions or problems they have and be aware of any changes in attitude or behavior.

Of course, not every child exposed to violent media will become a Ted Bundy or a killer. Far less heinous yet detrimental results from such exposure may not be so obvious. Ask yourself as a parent, “Am I willing to take that chance?”

Remember that media is only one factor in your child’s life but history has chosen its influence is powerful and potentially addicting as well. If you need help with this, contact your school counselor or parent advocacy groups or the Parents’ Television Council.


This post is part of the series: Media Influence: Parenting Tips

Guarding your children against potentially harmful movies, games and other media is more challenging than ever. This series provides actionable steps you can take to protect your child.

  1. Tips for Parental Involvement in Media for Kids
  2. Media Access: Guarding Kids against Inappropriate Media
  3. Positive Media and How it Can Help Your Kids Succeed