Published March 1992 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Television: A New Medium for Child Abuse?
Since the early 1950's, our society has treated television as a friendly, electronic baby sitter that can be depended upon to benignly amuse and even educate the millions of children who watch it daily. Current findings suggest, however, that the television industry has betrayed the trust once placed in it. A recent report released by the American Psychological Association (APA) calls into question televisions benign influence on children, suggesting even that television may be a malignant force in the development of young children, exposing them to a gratuitous violence, while teaching them antisocial attitudes toward others. In particular, the APA charges, television is bombarding children with images of death, injury, and human destruction at rates unparalleled in previous generations. For instance, by the time an American child watching the average of three hours of commercial television programming per day has attained the seventh grade level, he or she has already witnessed on average 8,000 television murders and been exposed to more than 100,000 other assorted acts of violence. Any parent or teacher feeding children a similar intellectual diet should be found guilty of child abuse. Worse than such abuse, the nine professional psychologists who conducted the study concluded that the average child's viewing menu influences children to use violence to resolve conflicts in real life and to be more acceptive of sexual violence and rape. Our society is enduring a plague of violence. Last year, seventeen major U.S. cities set new homicide records. Between them, New York and Los Angeles alone -- our two largest metropolitan centers -- chalked up more than 3,000 murders. Though West Virginia still enjoys crime rates generally lower than most other states, one wonders how long such a luxury can continue even in West Virginia when examples of violence as a resolution to conflicts are being imported from beyond our borders, day after day, by television. Television is now a major factor in shaping the values of children growing up in this culture. The time has come for the television industry to take seriously its responsibility to our country and to cease poisoning the minds and consciences of our children. March 18, 1992