Weeklong 'Violence Fast' Highlights Media Impact on Kids

People of faith are being encouraged to participate in a "media violence fast" this week in conjunction with the YWCA's "Week without Violence."

Sponsored by the media justice arm of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Oct. 12-18 fast was designed to provide a time for families with children and their supporters to take a stand against violent media by making a conscious decision not to watch it and seeking other methods of entertainment and intellectual stimulation for themselves and most importantly for their children.

"For this one week, starting Sunday, we are asking people to seek other forms of programming and intellectual stimulation, and to reflect on what it means to purposefully distance oneself from violence as entertainment," stated the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive director of OC (Office of Communication), Inc., the UCC's media justice organization.

Created in 1959, the UCC's OC, Inc., has been a leader in advocating for the public interest in the media before the Federal Communications Commission and the federal courts. It also offers materials to spread the word on media justice and reform.

"Media concentration affects us all negatively," the advocacy group states. "Large media companies far removed from our every day lives make decisions about what we see and hear."

"Companies whose values include too much sexism, racism and violence decide what programs we watch," it continues.

"UCC fights to ensure that large media companies remain accountable, comply with current laws, and cover local issues."

According to statistics compiled by the National Institute on Media and Family, children aged 8-18 spend an average of 44.5 hours per week (6.5 hours per day ) in front of computer, television, and game screens and will see 100,000 acts of violence on television in the next 10 years.

Furthermore, at least six national medical groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, have warned of the effects of media violence on children, including increased anti-social and aggressive behavior, decreased sensitivity to violence and those who suffer from violence, and acceptance of violence as a way to settle conflicts.

"This (the fast) is not about censorship," Guess said in a released statement. "Instead, we want people to pause and consider how the saturation of violence on our TV screens also affects our spiritual lives, our relationships with others, how we see the world and how we promote peace as a religious value, starting with our remote controls."

This year marks the fast's second year and is being promoted in partnership with the nation's Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the YWCA's "Week without Violence."

For the last two decades, October has marked a time when people in the nation come together in the fight to end domestic violence – a tragedy that spans every culture, race and ethnicity and is happening daily whether in the form of sexual, emotional or physical abuse.

Throughout the month, candlelight vigils are being held to remember victims of domestic abuse.