TV Violence, Children and the Press: Eight Rationales Inhibiting Public Policy Debates

By Sissela Bok

A paper by Sissela Bok, spring 1993 fellow, applies the perspective of philosopher and social critic to analyze public policy debates in the press about violent television. Bok exposes the weaknesses of eight common arguments: 1. America has always been a violent nation and always will be. 2. Why focus the policy debate on TV violence when there are other more important factors that contribute to violence? 3. How can you definitively pinpoint, and thus prove, the link between viewing TV violence and acts of real-life violence? 4. Television programs reflect existing violence in the real world, so it would be unrealistic and a disservice to viewers to wipe violence off the screen. 5. People can’t even agree on how to define violence – how then, can they discuss what to do about it? 6. It is too late to take action against violence on television, considering the plethora of video channels in homes. 7. It should be up to parents, not to the television industry, to monitor the programs that children watch. 8. Any public policy to decrease TV violence constitutes censorship and represents an intolerable interference with free speech.

Download the paper (PDF).