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Bullying Heavily Shown on Child Television, Researchers Concerned

Update Date: Sep 28, 2012 05:32 PM EDT

In a jarring study that reveals how the media may be over exposing children to bullying,  Indiana based researchers have found that social bullying and aggression is prevalent in television shows specifically meant for more impressionable audiences.

In real time, there is an act of social violence conducted once every four minutes. While bullying has gotten some recognition since the movie "Bully" was released which documented the real, unmitigated torment of school children from several different states, this study is the first of its kind explore the level to which children are exposed to behaviors such as cruel gossiping and manipulation of friendships, as depicted through the media.

Nicole Martins, assistant professor of telecommunications in the IU College of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study writes:

"social aggression was more likely to be enacted by an attractive perpetrator, to be featured in a humorous context and neither rewarded or punished," adding "in these ways, social aggression on television poses more of a risk for imitation and learning than do portrayals of physical aggression."

Through analyzing 50 of the most popular television shows in the US, from 2006-2009 researchers found that  92% of the programming contained some version of social aggression-approximately 14 times per hour.

Careful attention was paid to what cases of social aggression were displayed; to whether the behavior was rewarded or punished, justified, or committed by an attractive perpetrator.

The study concluded that bullies were depicted as physically attractive, were rarely if ever punished for their actions (researchers noted that if illustrated, it was more likely to be a form of indirect punishment like Karma), and finally there were more forms of social or verbal harassment, like name calling, gossiping or heckling than physical; the words were aimed to hurt or lower the characters self-esteem.   

More than this, the bullying was depicted in a humorous light so as to dissuade intervention on the protagonists part.

"These findings should help parents and educators recognize that there are socially aggressive behaviors on programs children watch," Martins said. "Parents should not assume that a program is OK for their child to watch simply because it does not contain physical violence."

 However, critics say that in the same way that violent video games do not condone violence or scary movies do not explicitly tell kids to kill and maim, kid T.V shows depict bullying will not turn non-bullies into one, nor does it make bullying any less significant. Showing bullying in a humorous light can show kids that bully's and  their malicious acts just that: a joke; their words, should be given the gravity of biblical text and are just the foolish rants of children. Physical abuse, however, is a different story and should be treated with care. 

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