One of the folks I follow on Twitter (and a good friend) had tweeted something interesting yesterday, she does that frequently, and what she said got me to thinking here.
Her first tweet said…
“Who says TV programs of hip serial killers has no affect on our society? It’s Cool to Kill Syndrome”
Which was followed up by…
“I wonder if Buddha was around these days whether he would have added Right TV to Right Speech.”
I think she has stumbled onto something, and from research done in the past, we know TV is very influential. The AACAP did a study in 2002 that states…
Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see. Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child’s behavior or may surface years later. Young people can even be affected when the family atmosphere shows no tendency toward violence.
This news comes as no surprise to most of you I’m sure, we’ve all tried to emulate those we see on TV, especially when we were younger. I remember sitting out in my back yard with wooden swords we made out of old fencing, we had dug out the center of a dirtpile that had been delivered to our house, and that was our Thunder Mobile yes, we were big Thundercats fans.
My two year old, if he happens to see some form of karate or martial art on TV will turn around and ask me to fight with him. Of course, at two years old he’s not ready to throw down, but the effects of TV are immediate. It’s quite scary actually, but at the same time, it’s innocent. He’s not trying to harm me, kill me or anything like that, he just wants to interact.
TV can be very influential.
Anyway, the tweets that were put out were in reference to a story recently about a boy, 17 years old, that strangled his younger brother. It is believed, the boy said something to the effect of “killing his brother made him feel like the fictional television serial killer ‘Dexter’…”
I have a few issues with this story, and the fact the kid is finding himself in the same league as a fictionalized character. First, yes he’s 17, but who is letting this kid watch this show? It is definitely something that is intended for mature audiences, the family should have known that this kid was not mature enough for this show.
Common Sense Media gives the show a “not for kids” rating, and rightfully so. The show is full of blood, severed parts, nudity, cussing, etc. I have three children, the oldest being 14 and there is NO WAY in hell on earth that I would let her, or the younger one’s, watch Dexter. I mean, for cripes sake, it’s common sense folks. I fully agree with the fact TV is to violent, and it influences our children, but there has to be some sort of parental accountability here.
As a parent myself, I know it is my responsibility to check out what my kids watch. I check the ratings on EVERYTHING before allowing my kids even a peak at a show. My six year old is huge into superheroes and the like, and that’s cool for him. There are certain shows and movies though that I have had to watch first for appropriateness, most of them have been viewed before he ever gets a chance. I’ve had to deal with tears and frustration that he can’t watch something, but like I said, I am the parent. It is my job to steer him in the right direction, and letting some artificial device interfere with that is not part of my plan.
And now for the big shock, I am a HUGE fan of Dexter! I watch it for a variety of reasons. First, Michael C. Halls acting ability in this role is phenomenal. He fits the psychiatric model, his voice is perfect, everything about his portrayal of a conscience serial killer is spot on. I watch it because, yes I am going to say it, Dexter has a code of conduct he follows. I do understand other’s will not agree with me on this but the code is as follows…
- Killing must serve a purpose, otherwise it’s just plain murder.
- Be sure.
- Blend in — maintain appearances.
- Control urges, and channel them.
Dexter does not kill just to kill, in a round about way, he only kills bad guys. I understand, from a Buddhist perspective, killing is killing, no matter what. But I enjoy the code that Dexter lives by, in his mind he never kills an innocent.
In the most recent episode he stumbles on a guy who poses as a somewhat normal person, his job entails that he drive around all day scraping road kill off the roads. Dexter finds that not only is he disposing of the animals in 50 gallon barrels, but when Dexter follows him one day to a swamp, he opens a few of the barrels and finds numerous dead women. Dexter’s plan is set in motion and it is his intention to rid the world of this filth, so that way no other women are hurt and killed.
I also watch it because at one point in time, I wanted to get into forensic science. I have studied a variety of serial killers throughout the years such as John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, with a morbid fascination of Jeffrey Dahmer. I even submitted a profile to the lead investigator on the Green River Killer Task Force (my profile was pretty “dead” on).
Jeffrey Dahmer was one of the most prolific killers, but he also could have stopped had there been some parental intervention. Later on, his father Lionel basically blames himself for the way Jeffrey’s life unfolded. One of the triggers should have been the mutilation of small animals and the extreme need to kill bugs as often as he could. Dahmer also had some severe sexual identity issues. He was gay, believe it or not, and because of the non-acceptance of gays he was repulsed by himself. This was one of the biggest triggers for him. He never felt comfortable because the way society viewed gays he felt the need to eradicate them, thus in a way, trying to eradicate his own feelings. Of course, it did not work, as we know. So who was to blame for Dahmer? Was it TV, which he didn’t watch much? Was it his parents? Was is it society?
Parents hold a lot of influence over their children, and I believe at the root of all of our issues, the world would be a better place if the parents took a look around and showed a genuine concern for their children. Unfortunately, in todays world, this is extremely difficult. In most households, both parents have to work in order to stay afloat and provide the material things our children need to survive. But, that in and of itself, can become a simple excuse at times.
I could go on all day about this, talking about this show and that one, but the main point I am trying to make is that we, as parents, are responsible for our children’s upbringing, which influences their behavior now and in the long run. The “Buddhist” thing to do is show them love and affection. To show them what is right and wrong. If you are letting your TV teach your child these values, it may come as no surprise later on in life that they will have some sort of issues. TV is not the answer, compassionate understanding is.
So, shut off the TV and pay attention before it’s to late. My heart go out to the family for the loss of both of their sons. Could this have all turned out differently though if their was a little more parental interaction?? I think so!