The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kids find fact worse than fiction

London, Sept. 23: Children are more affected by violence on the news than in soaps and television drama, a report said yesterday. The September 11 terrorist attacks were the most violent thing children said they had seen.

Young viewers in the study were more likely than adults to judge scenes as violent according to their emotional impact and whether the violence was justified. The report, which looked at how children aged nine to 13 react to violence on television and in films, found that some even regarded shouting as a form of violence in some circumstances.

A total of 83 children gave their views and reactions to programmes during 10 two-hour group discussions. Broadcasters and regulators said they would take note of the findings to ensure that parents were more fully aware of material which could disturb children.

Stephen Whittle, the BBC controller of editorial policy, said an on-screen warning was being developed which would flash up if viewers turn to a programme containing violent content.

The technology would only work with digital television.

Andrea Millwood Hargreave, the report’s author, said that when asked about the most violent thing they had seen, children in the study “all talked about September 11”.

“They were talking about buildings falling down, people jumping out of windows, firemen going in, voices and telephone conversations,” she said.

“They were not talking about the violent act itself, they were talking about the consequences.”

Researchers found children were sufficiently sophisticated to differentiate between fictional and real-life violence. Music, darkness and feelings of isolation could also heighten the awareness of violence, according to the study, carried out jointly by the Independent Television Commission, the BBC, Broadcasting Standards Commission and the British Board of Film Classification. Many cited soaps as the most violent programmes they regularly viewed, although they said they were not afraid of what they saw.

News chiefs are careful about using graphic images of violence before the watershed. But the new research shows it is not just the images that should concern them.

Whittle said the findings had implications for how broadcasters flagged up sensitive subjects. “It’s a question of informing people so parents can make a judgment whether the material they let their children see is material they feel comfortable with,” he said.

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