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How Cartoons Impact Children through Social Learning Theory to Make them Violent

Updated on June 16, 2011

According to social learning theory children learn new behaviors by observing others in their social environment. Children are more likely to learn from the role models. Role models in media have a great impact on the attitudes and behaviors they learn.

Cognitive priming theory explains how can media promt their enactment in certain situations once such behaviors are acquired, For instance, violent stimuli in the media can activate aggressive thoughts, feelings and even motor tendencies leaving us in no doubts that violence impacts young viewers.

Therefore, parents and teachers especially should be concerned about the possible role played by violence in cartoons in any destructive, antisocial, and potentially harmful behavior shown by children. It is equally important, to identify the causes of misbehavior. One must recognize and acknowledge the varying levels of sophistication different children bring to the viewing situation.

Most of the parents and teachers recognize that depiction of violence in media impacts the behavior of young impressionable mind. But there are some others that might claim violence depicted in cartoons are not real life and that they do not impact children negatively.

The produicers of these violent cartoons claim that the Japanese genre cartoons depicting violence has been shown in Japan for decades without any ill effect as the Japanese society evidences one of the lowest rates of violence.

Cartoons with explicit violence deinitely reinforce aggressive behavior among children as is well known. Never the less, there are other critical factors like the time children spend viewing these cartoons and the other forms of social learning they are exposed to in school and home, the peer group they associate with, and the social environment they are living in.

Even after an exposure to violence, some children can come out unscathed if they are offered  positive feedbacks at home and school. However, it certainly doesn’t apply to all children. For instance, exposure to the media violence partly exlains gun violence among children in the United States. 

In my opinion, depiction of violence in any form is inherently unhealthy for growing up children especially when they are in the very young age group. Violent behavior among children and the depiction of violent behavior in media go hand in hand in the western society.

Children are great imitators who attempt to imitate the heroic deeds. They see violent behavior on screen as heroic and rewarding. Generations of children ultimately suffer in consequence. On the positive side, the positive social traits in these shows reinforce strong values, but the harm from viewing violence is more than the benefits of learning positive values.

It is fairly common to notice children scream and shout or imitate other forms of verbal abuse that they learn from cartoon shows. De-learning is a time taking process. It requires right association and training. Some of the unfortunate viewers may not have access to the environment where they can de-learn negative values associated with violence. Moreover, children are in an age when they cannot make unbiased judgments. Violence shown in television has tended to desensitize us towards violence. Most of us may not be in the right frame to notice the subtle manner in which violence would be harming our children.



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