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Violent TV turns kids to violence, speaker says

Violence in today's television shows, movies and other media is influencing children to choose violence as a solution to their problems.

That according to Barbara Smith, public affairs officer for the Utah Council for Crime Prevention. During a speech last week at the Provo City Center, she urged parents to view TV programs with their children and discuss what they have seen."Our kids are choosing what they've learned on TV to deal with conflict instead of using something else," Smith said. When parents talk with their children about how many violent acts occur in a program, they can discuss how the violence is being used and how situations in the program could be handled without using violence. Alternatives for handling strong emotions can be reinforced - such as counting to 10 or stepping back from a situation.

Also, families need to ask themselves why they are watching particular programs. "You really are what you put in your brain. That's been proven over and over again," Smith said.

Smith's discussion is part of the Crime Prevention Month celebration taking place this month. She was joined by Gordon Johnson, chairman of the Turn Off the Violence campaign in Utah and a member of the board of the Utah Council for Crime Prevention.

Johnson said the United States has a larger appetite for entertainment featuring murder, mayhem and gore than any other industrialized country. Movies continue to provide audiences with more and more violence.

"It's feeding us something that isn't real," Johnson said, "and I think young, impressionable minds are certainly being influenced by this."

Crime prevention is the No. 1 concern for people nationwide, he said. "And yet, nearly all of us allow ourselves to be entertained on a daily basis by violence."

Smith said Utah's population grew from about 1.98 million in 1995 to about 2.05 million in 1996, a 4 percent increase. During that same time, overall crime in the state increased 1.3 percent. However, violent crime increased 3.6 percent.

"Young people are the ones being affected by this," Smith said. Nationally, homicide is the second leading cause of death for males ages 15 to 24, she said.