Doctor says violent media, family breakdown among causes

By Maggie Downs
Enquirer staff writer

AVONDALE – A child psychiatrist says media violence can contribute to the kind of violent behavior that left an 8-year-old Cincinnati boy in a coma for a week.

Treshawn Jones’ head was slammed into concrete by a 9-year-old boy, police said. It happened behind Hirsch Recreation Center in Avondale. Treshawn was in fair condition Sunday at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. No one has been charged in the assault.

There is a combination of reasons why children act violently, said Dr. Robert Kowatch, professor of child psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Among them, the breakup of nuclear families, overexposure to media, a violent culture and less parental involvement in a child’s life.

“Kids have got to understand life isn’t a video game,” Kowatch said.

In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated: “The strength of the correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior is greater than the correlation between calcium intake and bone mass, or the correlation between lead ingestion and lower IQ.”

Kowatch singled out video games like Grand Theft Auto, a criminal fantasy where players score points for picking off people.

Our world is becoming increasingly more aggressive, he said.

“We often reward violence,” Kowatch said. “Look at Iraq, there’s a certain amount of violence in our culture that is sanctioned.”

All of the factors together can turn into unbridled hostility.

“The majority of kids who watch those things aren’t violent,” Kowatch said. “But it’s the mix of family structure, their own aggressive impulses and their role models that determine their violent behaviors.”

Parents can do some things to prevent their children from getting too violent.

First, supervise your children. Know what they’re doing and what they’re watching.

“At a certain point, parents need to step in and say what is not appropriate,” Kowatch said. “There’s a level of violence in most media we’ve never had before.”

Also, act as a mediator when children have conflicts.

“Get the kids together and see if they can talk about it,” Kowatch said.

“Parents should act as role models and show kids you don’t have to resort to violence.”