Parents who are predisposed to limit children's exposure to violence will do so as a matter of course. Parents who don't feel that way, will not. Therefore, if parents can't be relied upon to police their children, then society must- because what social order wants to have violence-overloaded children heaving their criminal behavior upon it?
In the mid-1950's a Senate sub-committee began to investigate the "sources of the moral rot at the core of an otherwise flourishing postwar America," (Knox, 4). This committee looked at the comic book industry, movies, and particularly at television. While these efforts did little to nothing to curb interest in subjects considered to be anti-American, or "immoral," it does show the depth of time and effort that has been spent on this issue - at every level. However, over the course of time, television has become more liberal rather than less. So, in response, the television industry, governmental, and citizen bodies banded together again in the mid-1980's to begin the process of looking into alternative ways to actually keep children from watching violent acts in a society that maintains that freedom of expression is a critical part of our social order (Hornaday N01). One of the methods that is now commonplace is the television rating scale. Seen at the beginning of shows and upon returning from advertising breaks, broadcast networks have begun to voluntarily participate in the program of flashing a rating such as G, TV-MA, etc. On the screen indicating the content in the program.
Ratings, however, are simply not an effective deterrent. The determined child can simply keep his eyes open and watch as people kill each other on the screen. Ratings do not prevent actual viewing and it is viewing violence that creates violence. Therefore, the only course of action remaining, apparently, is to actually prevent children from watching particularly violent television shows. There are two basic ways to accomplish this that the broadcasting industry has agreed to participate in. First there is the "windowing" of television. During certain hours of the day, the television industry has agreed not to broadcast particular kinds of movies and television shows. This, in part, explains why children do not come home to seeing network broadcasts of Boys n the Hood, or Saving Private Ryan. The second method of approach is to actually physically prevent viewing - thus the birth of the vchip.
Technically, the V-Chip sounds like a very simple concept. The chip is imbedded into the circuitry of the television. Imbedded in the data transmission of the program is information relating to the ratings. The v-chip, then, receives those signals and, depending upon the level of "security" given to it, will simply render the screen unviewable by blocking it out with a color wash (such as all blue or all black) and turns off the audio of the broadcast. For a person to then watch the show, a code must be entered into v-chip via the television remote which then immediately unlocks the screen and allows for viewing.
On the surface, this sounds very good - a highly effective method of actually preventing the viewing of violence. This technology was embraced by both the television industry (looking to cooperate as much as was financially feasible) and the government. The v-chip, to be effective, must be turned on and programmed. The ease of accomplishing this is dependent wholly upon the way that the manufacturer set up the television controls and menus.
But, ultimately, it requires that the parents of the children take an active role in turning on the chip whenever a child is likely to watch TV. This is why the chip has not been very successful: parental effort must be exerted and that, put starkly, is just too much to ask of many people. The v-chip only succeeds in households that use it (Puzzanghera, 2007).
If the v-chip doesn't work, and we can't compel television studios to stop producing shows that display the kind of violence that is plaguing our nation, then what course of action do we have? Legislated censorship, perhaps, is the next logical step. But that is a very hard row to hoe. The problem is that our constitution allows for freedom of expression - and that has been expanded to include television shows, music, and movies. While we can slap warning labels and ratings on our entertainment, we can't actually prevent people from making fictional murder appear on TV.
So, are we stuck? Perhaps we are. Unless a v-chip can be made that operates on some sort of personal or biometric recognition system, our nation is going to continue to see children acting out what they have seen on television on each other and on us - to all of our detriment. Personal policing is the only reliable course of action we have.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2007). Children and TV Violence. Online. Internet. Avail: