Updated July 2010
There are plenty of studies showing a link between violent TV and children’s aggressive behavior. Watching one particular sport on TV - wrestling - has even been linked to dating violence.
Many Americans watch professional wrestling. In 2006, WWE Entertainment (WWE RAW) was ranked the 5th most popular TV cable programs, with over 5 and half million people watching.1 Professional wrestling is especially popular among youth. Research shows that aggressive youth are attracted to violent media, and violence in the media encourages aggressive behavior.[i]
A study conducted by Robert DuRant showed that high school students from one North Carolina school system who watched wrestling on TV over a two-week period were more likely to be involved in dating violence than their classmates that were otherwise similar in terms of age, race, social class, and other behaviors.[ii]
While far more boys watched wrestling than girls (63% of boys vs. only 35% of girls), the girls who watched wrestling were much more likely to be involved in violent behavior than the boys. Among the kids who said they watched wrestling in the last two weeks, both the boys and girls were more likely to start a physical fight with a date or be victimized by a date, use Ritalin without a prescription, and carry a gun or other weapon than the kids who didn’t watch wrestling. Boys who watched wrestling were also more likely to spit tobacco and drive after drinking. Girls who watched wrestling were also more likely to fight at school, be injured in a fight, use alcohol, use alcohol at school, use marijuana, and be a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking. More frequent viewing of TV wrestling was linked to the use of drugs or alcohol while dating, for both boys and girls.
Robert DuRant did another study on older teenagers (16 to 20) who watch wrestling. Carried out in 17 states, the study looked at whether watching wrestling on television increased the chances of youth being involved in risky behavior. Once again, the kids who watched more professional wrestling were more likely to hurt someone with a weapon, smoke cigarettes, have a higher risk of being in a date fight, and have sex without using birth control than their classmates who were the same age, race, social class, and had other similar traits.1
The studies indicate that parents, teachers, and other adults should consider ways to discourage kids and teens from viewing professional wrestling on television, and specifically discourage them from imitating the behaviors they see if they do watch wrestling.
[i] DuRant RH et al. Viewing Professional Wrestling on Television and Engaging in Violent and Other Health Risk Behaviors. Southern Medical Journal. 2008. 101.2.
[ii] DuRant RH, Champion H, Wolfson M. The Relationship Between Watching Professional Wrestling on Television and Engaging in Date Fighting Among High School Students. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2006. 118.2