Children’s TV Shows Social Bullying
September 27, 2012

90 Percent Of Children’s Programming Shows Social Bullying

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Over 90% of children's top 50 television shows display social bullying, according to new research.

In an age where social bullying is a growing hot topic, Nicole Martins, Indiana University, and Barbara J. Wilson, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, published research in the Journal of Communication looking into whether children are exposed to these behaviors through television programs.

The researchers analyzed 50 of the most popular children's shows, according to Nielsen Media Research.

They found that 92% of the programming contained some version of social aggression, including behaviors like cruel gossiping and manipulation of friendship.

They also paid attention to what was portrayed in the cases of social aggression, such as whether the behavior was rewarded or punished, justified, or committed by an attractive perpetrator.

The study found that attractive characters that perpetrated social aggression were rarely punished for their behavior and that socially aggressive scenes were significantly more likely than physically aggressive scenes to be presented in a humorous way.

In some cases, social aggression on television may pose more of a risk than portrayals of physical aggression.

"These findings should help parents and educators recognize that there are socially aggressive behaviors on programs children watch," Martins said in a statement. "Parents should not assume that a program is okay for their child to watch simply because it does not contain physical violence. Parents should be more aware of portrayals that may not be explicitly violent in a physical sense but are nonetheless antisocial in nature."

Amy Jordan, director of the Media and the Developing Child sector at the University of Pennsylvania, said the research shows just how important it is to broaden our view of "violence" beyond the physical.

"As a society, we need to acknowledge that our children are learning to be socially aggressive, and that one source of this learning may be the television shows they watch," Jordan said in the statement. "We may not see physical manifestations of this type of violence, but children who are victims of social aggression from their peers may develop deep and lasting emotional scars."