THE EFFECTS OF VIOLENT FILMS ON CHILDREN
A CASE STUDY OF CHILDREN IN CALABAR SOUTH
1.1 Background to the study
Different movies produced by the film industry use formats such as video Cassette, video compact disc (VCD), and more recently the digital video disc (DVD), in producing their movies. These movies are also shown on some channels such as “Africa Magic”, Joy TV”, etc, on DSTV, “Cine Africa”, MYTV”, as well as other cable network services which people subscribe to and which are viewed by the audience through the televisions, which is also classified under the types of media, among others.
Films are evidently seen as one of the agents of socialization. This means that films are capable of influencing the attitudes, characters, lifestyle, and cultures of children either negatively or positively. Therefore, it is important to know the kinds of movies being produced for children’s viewing, since as a result of technology, more and more people in the society have access to television.
According to (Daramola, 2005: 90), “the mass media are very powerful socialization agents. The mass media are mainly newspapers, magazines, radio, television and movies. They are impersonal sources and they reach large heterogeneous and widely dispersed audiences. Their exact role in socialization is controversial but as disseminators of news and entertainment, they are extremely influential. The mass media therefore, especially the television, have been linked by several studies of having great influence upon socialization of children, adolescents, and even adults.
Consciously or unconsciously, people most especially children, learn different aggressive and violent acts as they constantly watch these movies and most times they end up exhibiting such acts within their neighborhood, in school and within other social gatherings. As they watch movies with violent themes, they are likely to exhibit various criminal acts like bullying, kicking, raping, and other delinquent behaviours (Oslow, 2003:73).
The themes of these movies are indeed broad and covering Nigerian, African, and universal issues such as, the evils of polygamy, extra marital affairs, elopement, different forms of rituals, cultism, betrayal, marriage, witchcraft, incest, clash of western and traditional cultures, landlords and tenants, widowhood, teenage pregnancy, drug trafficking, campus life, tribal conflicts, religious conflicts, organized crime, murder, etc. (Akpabio, 2003: 138-139).
Some other movies have themes solely based on Christianity and the evils that go on in the churches and among pastors, such as those produced by Mount Zion Ministries, for the purpose of spreading the gospel. Some examples include, “Busy but guilty”, “Blood on the alter”, “One careless Night”, etc. Many other movies could be educative and portray some Nigerian cultures, while others could also be in form of documentaries, showing the history of some Nigerian cultures as well as how it has evolved overtime. An example of such documentary movies is “towards a metaphysics”, produced in 2010. But unfortunately, the most common themes evident in the majority of Nigerian movies includes violence, which covers cultism, murder, rape, aggressive fights etc. Romance, which covers sex, nudity and vulgarity or the use of strong language, etc. Another common theme is that of rituals and the use of traditional medicine.
Most of these are evidently negative themes and are therefore, malevolent to the development of personality and behaviour of it’s audience members in our contemporary society, especially children who are still at the primary and secondary stages of their socialization or learning process, and are vulnerable or prone to picking up or adopting attitudes ands behaviours from what they observe in the movies.
The portrayal of negative themes has been the base of Nigerian film industry, probably because of the gains gotten from constant patronage from it’s audience as well as the interest the audience members have in pornography, nudity, and violence. The industry was accused of over-emphasizing negative themes. The National Film and Video Censors Board, (the industry as regulatory body), in it’s guidelines for motion picture producers, called for production to be above board in portrayal of violence, crimes, sex, pornography vulgarity, obscenity and other sensitive subjects (NFVCB, 2000:107-111).
Today, the nature of most Nigerian movies have grown or evolved from bad to worse, especially on the part of those that portray sex, pornography, violence, and vulgarity. From experience, a comparison of older films such as “Outcast 1&2” and “Night out (Girls for sale)” produced between 1999 and 2000 and most recent ones such as “Dirty secret” and “Men in love” produced between 2010 and 2011, have proven that the level of the portrayal of nudity pornography and sex has become worse than before, the actors and actresses are now more comfortable with being nude, while acting. This is definitely malevolent to children who will develop more interest in pornography and may eventually become addicts. This will not only increase the number of rape reports, but will also give rise to more and more cases of teenage pregnancies, abortion, as well as abandonment of unwanted babies which increases the number of children to be cared for at the motherless babies homes.
Therefore, in trying to find out how violent films can pose as malevolent to children in our society it is also important to find out what the members of the area think about the nature of some of the themes portrayed in home videos, as well as their attitudes towards such movies, since it directly affects their children.
Calabar South is a Local Government Area located in Cross River State, Nigeria. It’s headquarters is at Anantigha. It has an area of 264 km2 and a population of 191, 630 (based on 2006 census).
1.2 Problems of the study
If an investigation or a study is carried out on the category of people that make up the majority of audience members of Nigerian movies, the result will definitely prove that it is children and adolescents. The minority will be older people because of the responsibilities of going to work, earning a living and planning a home, which they are faced with. As the children grow and mature into adulthood, they gradually lose interest in watching movies because they begin to prioritize some things over other and also develop a sense of responsibility (Daramola, 2005).
A study by Liebert and Poulson (1972), reveals that children in Canada begin to watch television before they are three years old. By the age of eighteen, a child will have spent more time in front of the television than any where else, including school. In the United States of America, children watch over three hours of television per day.
Schaefer and Lamm (2007) study, also reveals that apart from sleeping, watching television is the most time consuming activity of young people. The same trend is going on in the Nigerian contemporary society, particularly in the Urban cities. It is very common to find children watching movies and videos everyday.
Since members of the audience of movies also constitute members of the society, and the media, especially television, violent films are also capable of influencing an individual’s behaviour especially children who are quick to learn. The negative effects of these videos will also indirectly affect the society at large. That is to say that, if children adopt some behaviours as a result of these movies, it could indirectly affect the society by creating social problems such as, increase in rape reports, abortion, over-crowding of motherless babies homes due to unwanted babies, violence, increase crime rates and juvenile delinquencies, etc.
Therefore, this study seeks to look at the effect of violent films on children in our contemporary society, by looking at the nature and content of these movies and why it is still being patronized by members of the audience despite it’s malevolent nature.
1.3 Objectives of the study
The major objective of this study, is to ascertain the effect of violent films on children. A case study of children in Calabar South. The specific objectives of the study are as follows;
1. To ascertain if there is an over emphasis of negative themes in films.
2. To identify the negative effects or disadvantages associated with watching violent films by children.
3. To find out how violent films can affect the behaviours of children.
4. To suggest ways to prevent or reduce the negative effects or malevolence caused by violent films in children in our society.
1.4 Significance of the study
The study looks at the effect of violent films on children. The study does not dispute the fact that the television which is one aspect of the media is also very beneficial to learning and development process, and as a matter of facts, goes a long way in socializing children by helping them blend more easily into the society due to the amount of information passed on to the children through well co-ordinated motion pictures with various contents and story lines.
As a medium of communication, films are influential media and have the capacity of sending a wrong message or impression to the viewing audience especially children in their vulnerable stages of growth. Moreover, such impressions could spell a big problem to the entire society owing to the fact that children learn more easily from what they see or observe than from what they hear.
However, as every research work is expected to add to the existing knowledge, this study should serve as a referencing material to students and other researchers who will be carrying out research on related studies. Also Nigerian film makers will benefit from the information contained here as a yard stick to measure the level of their weaknesses and compare it with the strengths they have which could serve as a guide to correcting their weak points for a better future of their products and the society at large.
This study’s significance is also justifiable on the grounds that it will contribute largely to the understanding of the negative effects of films or the malevolent nature of some home videos towards our contemporary society, which would spur film makers to improve on the quality and the contents of the movies produced.
Parents will also become aware or be exposed to the negative effects of movies and how they can influence their children’s behaviours both on the long and short run. This would cause them to seek means of controlling their children’s viewing habits and be conscious of what they watch and the themes embedded in these movies. Resultantly, this would reduce the negative impact as well as the level of malevolence caused by movie watching in our contemporary society.
The suggestions in this work will hopefully help film makers try to adhere to National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) laws by differentiating the age ratings for various movies, while the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation will also try to review and censor the movies before they get into circulation. And the parents on the other hand will ensure that children watch only the movies specified for their various ages.
This study is significant because it seeks to investigate these issues of negativity in movies and their effects on children and the society.
1.5 Scope of the study
This study focuses on the effects of violent films on children: A case study of children in Calabar South. The research may also investigate the social functions of films as it affects children and their behaviours in Calabar South Local Government Area.
The essence of the focus on one locality is to enable the researcher to be precise and specific in her observation.
1.6 Definition of the terms
1. Malevolence: According to “Merriam-Webster’s dictionary”, this can be defined as the quality or state of being productive of harm or evil. The Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as, “wishing harm or evil, and showing or having ill will”, that is the state of causing harm or evil.
In this study, it means the harm caused by Nigerian movies. Malevolence here refers to the ability of Nigerian movies to be harmful to our society, or the harm caused by Nigerian movies in our contemporary society.
2. Movie: This is defined as “the showing of motion pictures or the motion picture medium”, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.
3. Nigerian movie: This refers to the Nigerian motion picture medium, or the showing of Nigerian motion picture.
4. Violence: The World Health Organization (WHO; 2007) defines violence as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development or deprivation.
5. Effect: This is the power to influence somebody’s action, character or beliefs especially by providing an example for them to follow.
6. Viewing: This is the ability to watch something carefully.