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Expert advocates reducing amount of TV time to cut school violence

Sunday, September 3, 2006

CHAFFEE -- Reducing the viewing hours of violent imagery from television, movies and video games is the key to reducing school violence, according to a leading expert.

About 600 faculty members from Scott and Mississippi county schools gathered at Chaffee Senior High School Friday for a lecture by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman of Jonesboro, Ark., on preventing violent crimes in schools.

Grossman, founder of the Killology Research Group, is a former military officer who has dedicated himself to exploring human aggression and the roots of violence.

The Student Media Awareness and Reduction Training curriculum designed by the Stanford University School of Medicine is "the hottest thing in the educational world," according to Grossman. "What it is, is a TV turn-off program."

Grossman said studies have shown that "when we convince kids to turn off TVs, movies, and video games, essentially violence in schools cuts down in half."

Children today are "immersed in a world of violent imagery," he said. "When we turn it all off, we get the most stunning reduction in violence, the most stunning reduction in bullying, the most significant reduction in obesity, and an outstanding increase in standardized test scores."

Grossman said children also come to school more because "they are not getting beat up, not getting bullied, they are not sleep deprived."

During the first week in the training curriculum, participants log their TV viewing time.

"The average kids spend 45 hours per week in front of the tube," Grossman said.

During the second week of the program, students discuss things they would rather do with their time.

"About the third week, the teacher presents the idea of a 10-day media challenge," Grossman said. "By the end of one week, the change in behavior is stunning."

The program also includes taking state standardized tests following the 10-

day TV turnoff.

Results of the program are discussed, after which students are encouraged to implement a permanent change in their viewing habits.

"They give themselves a TV diet. They limit themselves to seven hours per week," Grossman said. This is the total viewing time for television, movies and video games combined.

Communities that embrace the program see a change that goes beyond the schools, according to Grossman.

"When you turn off the TV, virtually every other part of the economy blossoms," he said. "The local libraries blossom, the local newspapers blossom."

Grossman said students are more receptive to the idea after viewing brain scan images which show how violent imagery results in underdeveloped brains.

"The kids are really taken by the brain scan images," he said.

The brain scan images show how the left brain, which controls logical thought, "is almost catastrophically shut down" by violent imagery, Grossman said. "The key is this: the written word experience is what makes you human, the spoken word experience is what makes you human."

Violent imagery, on the other hand, is something any animal can absorb.

"It's almost like a drug because it can be undone in three or four days, Grossman said. "In just three or four days we can 'detox' a kid."

While the content of TV, movies and video games does matters, so does age and the quantity of viewing.

Grossman said for children ages 2-3 years old, viewing television and movies increases the chance for attention deficit disorders no matter what they are watching.

Some view "violence as vodka, and non-violent stuff as beer," according to Grossman, with all TV, movies and video games being harmful to some extent.

Pilot programs using the free curriculum are now in place in over 1,000 schools, Grossman said.

While this area has never had anything approaching a school shooting incident, "we're trying to address this before an incident like that would ever happen," said Neil Glass, principal of Chaffee High School.

By inviting Grossman to speak, school officials are taking "a proactive approach" so they can rest assured they "did everything in our power to make sure something like this never occurs in our schools," Glass said.

"The closest one I know of is the Paducah, Ky., shooting and he was involved in that as a consultant," he said. "We're hoping to get an understanding of the causes of violent crimes and Col. Grossman is the leading expert in violent crimes. ... Col. Grossman is world-renowned and we feel all the faculty need to hear what he has to say."

Faculty are required to attend various scheduled in-service professional development programs for school improvement.

"This particular presentation deals with school safety," Glass said. "We're trying to get kind of an idea of what are some of the 'look-fors' for kids that are at the breaking point and what we can do to subdue it and counseling that decreases their aggression, so to speak."

Grossman was invited to speak on the recommendation of Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter who heard him speak at a state conference.


On the Net: Killology Research Group: http://www.killology.com