Autor: ---- Fuente: The Globe and Mail

A national study of what Canadian children watch on television and play on their computers paints a disturbing picture. In the survey of 5,756 students between the ages of 8 and 15, slightly more than half of those over 12 have witnessed a "violent act" copied from a movie or television show. Three-quarters of all the children have seen an inappropriate movie by the time they reach Grade 8, often at home and typically with little or no parental supervision.

Two-thirds of those polled say no one keeps an eye on which video or computer games they play or for how long. Nearly half say they are free to watch whatever TV programs they want, regardless of content. Among 12-year-old boys, 84 per cent acknowledge having played video games with a mature rating, not meant for anyone under 17. Grand Theft Auto, a notoriously violent adult game that rewards players for the number of people they run down, is a hit with eight-year-olds.

Most children recognize these are just games. But studies have shown that such exposure to violence, even of the cartoon variety, has a desensitizing effect on young minds. Adolescents themselves know something isn't right with this picture. They believe younger kids should not be watching such TV favourites of theirs as The Simpsons and South Park, and there should be more curbs on mature-rated video games than on restricted movies.

"It's absolutely frightening," said Terry Price, president of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, which commissioned the study of children's media habits. "We should be taking notice and talking to kids about what is happening."

There should indeed be more classroom time devoted to developing media literacy, so that young people have some context for what they are seeing. Parents, too, need to take more responsibility for what their children are doing in their spare time. One simple step would be to remove TVs and video games from the child's bedroom and move them to spaces with open access. The study found nearly half of those between 8 and 15 have their own TV sets and more than a third have their own videocassette recorders.

It's harder when both parents are working, but that doesn't mean they can't take an interest in what their offspring are up to, or employ common sense and available technologies to restrict and monitor what is coming into their homes.
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