Yesterday’s topic was about parents who try to protect their kids from every difficulty in life. Today I came across a research study from researchers at Wake Forest University who say that there may be a direct link between watching professional wrestling on television and increased amounts of “date fighting” and other derogatory behavior among teens.The findings, which were compiled in 1999, and shared with other researchers in 2001, have been published in the journal Pediatrics recently. Here are some highlights from ABC News story.
Dr. Robert Durant, one of the study’s authors, said the intensity of such behavior corresponded with the amount of exposure to wrestling. The behavior Durant and his team were looking for was increased amount of drinking, drug use and fighting, both verbally and physically, with their dates.
“Is it causing these behaviors or is it that those adolescents were more prone to engage in health risk behaviors and in other violent behaviors more likely to watch wrestling,” Durant said back in 2001. “I would think that a little of both is occurring.”
The researchers found that among high school students, the frequency that they had watched wrestling in the previous two weeks was associated with the frequency that they had engaged in tobacco, alcohol and other substance use, as well as the frequency that they engaged in behaviors like fighting and carrying weapons.
Durant also said that he was surprised to see that teenage girls who watched wrestling were also more likely to fight with their dates as well.
“We have to advise parents to monitor what their children are watching and be careful about the amount of violence and substance abuse they allow their children to watch on television,” he said.
Signs to look for include throwing folding chairs at dinner and having only Spandex outfits in the closet. In some ways it is hard to take this seriously because I find it hard to take pro wrestling seriously. One pundit said the most amazing hold in pro wrestling is the one it has on it’s audience. Frank DeFord once noted, “I believe that professional wrestling is clean and everything else in the world is fixed.” While I look at wrestling as bizarre entertainment, it is nonetheless a cultural phenomenon. I have written before about the coarsening of our culture. Wrestling, reality tv, and Springer (and that genre) have contributed mightily to the slide. I used to watch pro wrestling as a kid growing up in Southern Ohio. I used to dream of applying Killer Kowalski’s Iron Claw on a couple of jerks at school. But I never considered actually trying these tactics outside of my imagination. Why are researchers finding that youngsters today are actually influenced by this stuff?
I suspect that Dr.Durant hit on a couple of key factors. One is the amount of exposure. Nonstop exposure to unhealthy messages has an impact. I have to monitor that in my own life. Imagine how it impacts hormonally raging teens.
A year long study (50 episodes, from 2/12/98 to 2/1/99) by Indiana University’s Department of Telecommunication of World Wrestling Federation’s “Raw is War” recorded the instances of sexual and violent interactions:
- crotch grabbing or pointing: 1,658 instances
- garbage cans, chairs, tables and brooms used in wrestling: 609
- kicks to the groin: 273
- profane descriptions of people: 158
- obscene finger gesture: 157
- simulated sexual activity: 128
- scantily clad women: 70
- urinating (talking about/appearing to): 21 (New York Times, 1999) The Times story also noted that one third of the viewers of “Raw is War” are seventeen and under.
I would imagine that the content has gotten even worse in the seven years since that study was done. That is substantial exposure to toxic values.
In response to the report that wrestling leads to increased teen violence the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. issued a statement refuting the study’s findings. In a statement released Friday, WWE said:
“The researchers could not find a direct causal relationship between watching wrestling and health risk behaviors. The study ignored other factors that might lead to the types of behaviors discussed in the study. Its findings, therefore, are less than conclusive. In contrast to the findings of this flawed study, many of our fans attest that watching World Wrestling Entertainment programming has been a positive experience for them and their children. Many teens viewing our programs credit them with furthering their self-esteem and confidence.”
In a related story, the Fox Council of America (FCA) reported that the appearence of foxes in hen houses was in no way related to unexplained disappearences of chickens. “We are proud of our long history of foxes watching the hen house,” noted the FCA spokescritter. Okay…that didn’t happen. But it makes as much sense. Of course this stuff has an effect. I guess the WWE thinks if you believe rasslin’ is real you will buy that statement.
So what is a parent to do? Joni and I had a few principles that worked pretty well.
- Keep a close eye on who your kids hang out with. We watched their friends closer than any other factor. Unless your child is extraordinary (pretend for just a moment that he or she may be normal) they tend to become like those they spend time with consistently.
- Monitor but don’t smother. Some activities (movies, shows, etc) were simply off limits. Questionable shows were discussed and sometimes allowed…sometimes not. I actually would watch shows like Beavis and Butthead with my sons. Some of it was funny. Some of it was really stupid. When inappropriate things were said they knew by my reaction and later discussion that it was inappropriate. And by participating the rebellion appeal was eliminated. I knew if they didn’t watch it at my house they would go elsewhere and watch. Removing the forbidden fruit factor greatly diminished the shelf life of the show. Who knew Beavis and Butthead would provide valuable teaching moments?
- Model correct behavior. My sons could see women treated with disrespect all day long on televison but that was not how we acted at our home. I tried to treat their Mom with love and respect and I expected the same from them. They learn more from us than we care to admit.
- Make sure there is balance in their lives. I did not want my sons isolated from popular culture totally. My experience with cloistered kids is they too often try to catch up when they leave home. But I did want to make sure their world had a healthy balance of God’s Word, biblical teaching, and Christian fellowship.
Paul outlined some rules for holy living that mentioned very early the importance of the mind.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Despite the protests of the WWE, what we input into our minds makes a real difference. And that is just as important for grownups as it is for children.