Social bullying prevalent in kids TV

Social bullying prevalent in kids TV

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SALT LAKE CITY — As we near the end of Bully Prevention Month, a new study finds a lot of bullying in the shows children watch on TV.

Often it's kids being verbally mean to each other, or socially aggressive, or adults with put-downs, eye rolls, glares and exclusion, according to Indiana University professor Nicole Martin.

She conducted a study on the topic and says parents may be quick to notice physical bullying and point that out as wrong, but maybe not social aggression.

"Just because it doesn't leave a physical bruise - these kids who are victims of these kinds of behaviors can hurt for a long time," Martin said.

Her study found it's not limited to kids shows. Think about the shows you watch with your children, like American Idol. Martin discovered many instances of social aggression and verbal bullying on TV.

Those behaviors were most often done by characters written to be role models or look more popular. And the aggression was often made to look humorous.

Study Highlights
  • 92% of the top 50 programs for children between the ages of 2-11 showed characters involved in social aggression.
  • On average, there were 14 different incidents of social aggression per hour, or once every four minutes.

"We know humor is particularly problematic because it increases the likelihood of imitation, because children are not thinking of the consequences in real life," she said.

Martin says the behaviors were also more likely to go unpunished, with no regard for the victim. She says parents should be aware of what kids are watching and talk about it.

"Use it as a teaching moment. Be sure to point out the behaviors and comments that are particularly problematic, and remind your child that saying those things in the real world is not OK, and you can really hurt someone by doing that," she said.

The study, "Mean on the Screen: Social Aggression in Programs Popular With Children," appears in the Journal of Communication.

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