The yellow journal that thousands of Carroll elementary school students took home last week is homework, but not the typical kind: Parents are supposed to do it -- while the television is turned on.
The 15-page Media Violence Inventory has been going home with children across the state, in public and private schools, since November. Carroll students received them Wednesday.
Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. is asking parents to keep a diary for one week of all the television shows, music, computer games and other media to which their children are exposed. Curran's plan to distribute the television diaries grew from the release in the fall of a report examining media violence and its link to youth violence. The object of the exercise is to make parents more aware of violence in the media and the effect it can have on children.
Parents are asked to rate each show or record for violence, on a set scale. This homework doesn't get turned in, but parents are encouraged to write or call local television affiliates to voice their opinions. The numbers and addresses are in the back of the diary.
Curran visited Westminster on Tuesday to launch the Carroll campaign. He has been promoting the diary since November in his "Tune Out the Violence" campaign, in a state that had the nation's fourth-highest rate of murders by juveniles for 1994. Attorneys general in other states are leading similar campaigns.
"Kids leaving elementary school have seen 8,000 murders and more than 100,000 other acts of televised violence," Curran said. "Moreover, 73 percent of televised violence is rewarded or unpunished; 58 percent shows no pain to victims, and violence is often equated with power and glamour."
MA Carroll parents probably will agree that violent TV shows are
bad, but whether they will take the time to fill out the survey remains to be seen, said Laura Rhodes, president of Piney Ridge Elementary School PTA.
"We do a presentation before every PTA meeting," Rhodes said, but when the subject of media violence came up, none of the parents was interested.
"They were aware of what they allow their children to watch, and they didn't think they needed it," Rhodes said.
Elsewhere in the state, some people have noted that the parents likely to take the time to fill out the survey are probably also the ones who monitor what their children watch.
Rhodes said that if the survey would go to networks or media corporations, she might have filled it out. But because it won't, she doesn't expect to. She knows what her children like to watch and usually watches with them: old musicals and the Nickelodeon cartoons "Doug" and "Rugrats," both of which are not violent.
"I don't know if I want more programming -- I don't like to sit in front of the TV," Rhodes said. "I want to do other stuff."
'Communication' is key
Limiting media images of violence is only one tactic, Rhodes said, and not the most important one to reduce real-life violence.
"I think it takes a lot of communication between parent and child," she said. "I've had to just teach the reality of violence vs. the fantasy of violence."
For example, although she has never let her 6-year-old son have a gun or sword toy, he makes them out of sticks. She counters with education and communication, she said.
"I think the reason we have so much violence in our society is the breakdown of the family," she said. "The children don't have anyone who cares about them. And if you don't care, it's very easy to depersonalize and kill a 'thing,' a nonentity."
Pub Date: 2/24/97