New Delhi: The recent cases of a 12-year-old who died aping a TV serial suicide and a 15-year-old who stabbed his teacher to death after being reportedly influenced by watching revenge drama ‘Agneepath’ have put the spotlight on the influence showbiz exerts on young, impressionable minds. But films and TV shows are not alone to blame, say experts.
Media literacy for kids is one way out, suggests child psychiatrist Samir Parikh.
"Our education system needs to spread media literacy among kids and infuse life skills into them so that they can differentiate between reality and fiction. There`s no other way out," Parikh told IANS.
According to Parikh, there are a few key effects that watching violence on screen can have on children.
"When children watch and observe violence, they start developing a tendency towards being aggressive, they get desensitised to aggression, they can have a tendency to imitate, and their perception of reality can also tend to get distorted... they start believing that killing and abusing is not a big deal, and that`s where the problem begins," he explained.
The Chennai-based boy, who stabbed his teacher to death as he was upset at being repeatedly reprimanded by her for not doing well in studies, reportedly told police during questioning that he had recently seen ‘Agneepath’ and was influenced by the hero who takes revenge on those who falsely implicate his father.
In the case of the 12-year-old Delhi boy, the father believes his son, who climbed on a pile of chairs and hung himself with a dupatta, probably tried to copy a recent TV episode in which a woman died the same way.
Vipul Shah of Optimystix, producer of crime-based show ‘Crime Patrol’ admits content providers need to exercise caution with the level of aggression and violence shown on screen.
"Broadcasters, who are a part of any show, should check the age factor before venturing into new shows. It`s not ethical to show everything and anything for the sake of ratings," Shah told IANS.
"Parents also play a big role in a child`s personality development. They must notice any behavioural changes on a child`s mind while watching shows or movies. By following all these, we can make a better society and put a stop to such incidents," he added.
Veteran producer B.P.Singh, popular for long-running crime-thriller series ‘C.I.D’, says it is "too sweeping a statement" to make that films influence children to commit crimes.
"It is rather unfortunate to hear news of this nature. But somewhere I feel our education is to be blamed for asking too much out of the kids... but who knows what went on in the child`s mind," Singh told IANS on phone from Mumbai.
The intent of entertainers is never to influence in a negative way, asserts Singh.
"We try to entertain, not to show violence. In a show like `C.I.D`, where we could have shown violence and aggression, we choose not to show the methods of killing, methods of crime or the way they may have been planned, so as to avoid giving ideas to impressionable minds.
"As content providers, we are aware that a lot of young people watch our show... so we take care. But with such incidents, one wonders what our society is heading for. Who really knows where the trigger is coming from... environment, showbiz, friends or school," he added.
So far broadcasters have done their bit by using disclaimers before each episode of adventure-based shows, which involve risky and life-threatening tasks. But the big question is - who can curb the influence, how, and till when.