Study: TV Rating System Will Attract Kids

WASHINGTON -- Cartoons and other children's television programs rarely depict the real consequences of violence and often glorify the attacker, a U.S. cable industry study has said. It also warned that the new U.S. TV rating system is likely to attract youngsters to restricted programs.

"Of all genres, children's programs contain the greatest number of these high-risk violent portrayals," researchers concluded in a report commissioned by the National Cable Television Association and released last week.

The report doesn't specifically evaluate the effectiveness of the age-based TV ratings system that went into use Jan. 1 -- after the study was conducted.

But researchers were skeptical of the system's effectiveness, based on studies of the similar ratings system for movies.

"The type of rating system now being implemented has been shown to attract many children to restricted programs," the report said. "This may necessitate greater supervision of your children's viewing, or it may be the source of increased parent-children conflict over viewing choices."

Researchers said more detailed information about programs' violent, sexual and language content would be more helpful to parents.

They worry that such portrayals teach aggressive attitudes and behavior to young children.

Children under seven have difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy, and the report warns that for this age group, "cartoon violence must be taken seriously."

Older children aren't as susceptible to cartoon violence because they can distinguish between reality and fantasy. But these children, the report said, are vulnerable to more realistic portrayals of violence, like those in movies and dramas.

The survey, the largest of its kind, was based on a sample of 2,757 hours of programming on 23 channels -- a mix of cable and broadcast television -- from October 1995 to June 1996. Violence was defined as having a clear intent to harm, being physical in nature and overt.

The study found that higher-level age-based ratings like "PG-13" and "R" make children tune in.

"None of the content-based rating systems showed this unwanted side-effect," the report said. From "TV-G," for all audiences, to "TV-MA," for mature audiences only, TV ratings now being used are similar to movie ratings.

Since their inception, TV ratings have been attacked for insufficient information about violent and sexual content.