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Children and adolescents in the United States are exposed to violence in increasing numbers each year. This may seem like an obvious statement, but consider the following: The average child watches 21 to 23 hours of TV per week. This means that by the time this child reaches age 70, he will have spent 7 to 10 years in front of the television. And with regular Saturday morning children's television containing about 20 to 25 acts of violence per hour, it is no wonder the average person has viewed around 200,000 acts of violence by the time he reaches 18 years of age. And while tragedies such as Columbine cannot be explained simply by blaming media violence, it currently appears to be one of the most easily correctable contributing factors.

The entertainment industry has maintained a stance that there is no link between media and real-life violence. And yet, scientific studies that number in the hundreds have concluded that there is not only a direct connection, but children repeatedly exposed to this type of violence lose the ability to discriminate between real-life and entertainment violence and tend to accept violence as an acceptable way to resolve even complex problems.

The solution to this problem is a bit complex due to the multiple parties involved. Health care providers need to inform their patients and the public about the real effects these media messages send. The entertainment industry should improve their product by spending more time depicting the consequences of violent actions. And the government could take a more responsible role in regulating the industry. However, in a market economy, money talks, so it is the parents that must take the biggest role by being the watchdogs over what their children view on TV. If there is no interest in violent programming, the industry will change its focus. Just as good nutrition habits begin in the early years, so do media habits. So, here are some helpful hints to make your child more "media savvy."

Avoid television for children under two years of age. Current research on early brain development suggests that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interaction with parents and other caregivers in order to allow for appropriate development of social, cognitive, and emotional skills.

Set limits and be actively involved. The first step is to know what your children are watching and encourage them to ask questions. Children develop attitudes about violence at a very young age, and these tend to last. By challenging your child with questions about how they feel about what they watch, you might be surprised at their enthusiasm of having a dialogue with you about the programming. Choose TV watching times in advance. This helps set limits on the endless viewing. In addition, it takes away



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