Right TV, or Parental Responsibility??

One of the folks I follow on Twitter (and a good friend) had tweeted something interesting yesterday, she does that frequently, and what she said got me to thinking here.

Her first tweet said…

“Who says TV programs of hip serial killers has no affect on our society? It’s Cool to Kill Syndrome”

Which was followed up by…

“I wonder if Buddha was around these days whether he would have added Right TV to Right Speech.”

I think she has stumbled onto something, and from research done in the past, we know TV is very influential. The AACAP did a study in 2002 that states…

Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness.  Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness.  Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see.  Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child’s behavior or may surface years later. Young people can even be affected when the family atmosphere shows no tendency toward violence.


This news comes as no surprise to most of you I’m sure, we’ve all tried to emulate those we see on TV, especially when we were younger. I remember sitting out in my back yard with wooden swords we made out of old fencing, we had dug out the center of a dirtpile that had been delivered to our house, and that was our Thunder Mobile yes, we were big Thundercats fans.

My two year old, if he happens to see some form of karate or martial art on TV will turn around and ask me to fight with him. Of course, at two years old he’s not ready to throw down, but the effects of TV are immediate. It’s quite scary actually, but at the same time, it’s innocent. He’s not trying to harm me, kill me or anything like that, he just wants to interact.

TV can be very influential.

Anyway, the tweets that were put out were in reference to a story recently about a boy, 17 years old, that strangled his younger brother. It is believed, the boy said something to the effect of  “killing his brother made him feel like the fictional television serial killer ‘Dexter’…”

I have a few issues with this story, and the fact the kid is finding himself in the same league as a fictionalized character. First, yes he’s 17, but who is letting this kid watch this show? It is definitely something that is intended for mature audiences, the family should have known that this kid was not mature enough for this show.

Common Sense Media gives the show a “not for kids” rating, and rightfully so. The show is full of blood, severed parts, nudity, cussing, etc. I have three children, the oldest being 14 and there is NO WAY in hell on earth that I would let her, or the younger one’s, watch Dexter. I mean, for cripes sake, it’s common sense folks. I fully agree with the fact TV is to violent, and it influences our children, but there has to be some sort of parental accountability here.

As a parent myself, I know it is my responsibility to check out what my kids watch. I check the ratings on EVERYTHING before allowing my kids even a peak at a show. My six year old is huge into superheroes and the like, and that’s cool for him. There are certain shows and movies though that I have had to watch first for appropriateness, most of them have been viewed before he ever gets a chance. I’ve had to deal with tears and frustration that he can’t watch something, but like I said, I am the parent. It is my job to steer him in the right direction, and letting some artificial device interfere with that is not part of my plan.

And now for the big shock, I am a HUGE fan of Dexter! I watch it for a variety of reasons. First, Michael C. Halls acting ability in this role is phenomenal. He fits the psychiatric model, his voice is perfect, everything about his portrayal of a conscience serial killer is spot on. I watch it because, yes I am going to say it, Dexter has a code of conduct he follows. I do understand other’s will not agree with me on this but the code is as follows…

  1. Killing must serve a purpose, otherwise it’s just plain murder.
  2. Be sure.
  3. Blend in — maintain appearances.
  4. Control urges, and channel them.

Dexter does not kill just to kill, in a round about way, he only kills bad guys. I understand, from a Buddhist perspective, killing is killing, no matter what. But I enjoy the code that Dexter lives by, in his mind he never kills an innocent.

In the most recent episode he stumbles on a guy who poses as a somewhat normal person, his job entails that he drive around all day scraping road kill off the roads. Dexter finds that not only is he disposing of the animals in 50 gallon barrels, but when Dexter follows him one day to a swamp, he opens a few of the barrels and finds numerous dead women. Dexter’s plan is set in motion and it is his intention to rid the world of this filth, so that way no other women are hurt and killed.

I also watch it because at one point in time, I wanted to get into forensic science. I have studied a variety of serial killers throughout the years such as John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, with a  morbid fascination of Jeffrey Dahmer. I even submitted a profile to the lead investigator on the Green River Killer Task Force (my profile was pretty “dead” on).

Jeffrey Dahmer was one of the most prolific killers, but he also could have stopped had there been some parental intervention. Later on, his father Lionel basically blames himself for the way Jeffrey’s life unfolded. One of the triggers should have been the mutilation of small animals and the extreme need to kill bugs as often as he could. Dahmer also had some severe sexual identity issues. He was gay, believe it or not, and because of the non-acceptance of gays he was repulsed by himself. This was one of the biggest triggers for him. He never felt comfortable because the way society viewed gays he felt the need to eradicate them, thus in a way, trying to eradicate his own feelings. Of course, it did not work, as we know. So who was to blame for Dahmer? Was it TV, which he didn’t watch much? Was it his parents? Was is it society?

Parents hold a lot of influence over their children, and I believe at the root of all of our issues, the world would be a better place if the parents took a look around and showed a genuine concern for their children. Unfortunately, in todays world, this is extremely difficult. In most households, both parents have to work in order to stay afloat and provide the material things our children need to survive. But, that in and of itself, can become a simple excuse at times.

I could go on all day about this, talking about this show and that one, but the main point I am trying to make is that we, as parents, are responsible for our children’s upbringing, which influences their behavior now and in the long run. The “Buddhist” thing to do is show them love and affection. To show them what is right and wrong. If you are letting your TV teach your child these values, it may come as no surprise later on in life that they will have some sort of issues. TV is not the answer, compassionate understanding is.

So, shut off the TV and pay attention before it’s to late. My heart go out to the family for the loss of both of their sons. Could this have all turned out differently though if their was a little more parental interaction?? I think so!


  1. I’ve always seen Dexter in a different light. I see that Dexter has been dealt such a bad hand from an early age and yet through the help of his “father”, acting as a mentor, teaches him how to use the monster inside of him and redirect it to serve humanity in the best way he possibly can, as a vigilante taking out violent criminals who operate beyond the control of society’s laws. Through this service, he gets in touch with his humanity deep down and his desire for family.
    It’s similar to discussions I’ve had about Hellboy (I’ve been a Hellboy reader forever), some of my friends are immediately turned off by Hellboy’s being not only a demon but a Prince of Hell, being violent etc. I’m quick to point out that what you have here is a creature who should be by all accounts the archenemy of humanity and instead he denies his nature and protects humanity from everything that goes bump in the night because he’s experienced unconditional love from his adopted father.
    I don’t know, just my opinion.

  2. Watching Dexter, Weeds, Breaking Bad and The Shield all remind me of the crazy hopeless situations you can end up in when you do go in a direction other than the one society approves of. The only reason the protagonists make it out of the situations they get in is so that the story can continue.

    I can easily identify and sympathize with Dexter, but it’s clear that life had dealt him a different hand. Especially Weeds and Breaking Bad remind me of why I’m glad that’s not the kind of life I live anymore even if it is over dramatized and extreme in nature.

    As far as the TV violence leading to violent children, I still take that with a grain of salt. Parents and friends influence children, if TV is the parent and/or friend you let your child spend the most time with… well, what do you expect?

    It boils down to taking responsibility for your own actions, you can only do the best that you can do. If the kid ends up going after the football team with a shotgun, maybe there’s something else wrong and TV is just the scape goat

  3. A lot of it comes down to parenting. Kids are inundated with all kinds of media messages. Dexter is a subtle, unique character that, as you’ve pointed out, can teach some interesting lessons. I grew up playing video games and listening to music, much of which was, ostensibly, violent. But I had parents who always made sure we understand when something was fictional, and would periodically ask us interested questions about the content of a game. I don’t see any issue with a 17 year old watching Dexter. If he found that a source for murder, than there was something else wrong to begin with. It’s like blaming school shootings on violent music or video games; these kids would’ve found something to focus on somewhere.

    This is just like John’s response up above, now that I read closer. Unfortunately, a lot of parents are themselves incapable of making proper distinctions between the metaphorical and the literal- I blame the magical thinking inherent in a lot of religious upbringings- which, unless they’re careful or particularly bright, makes it harder for them to model such proper distinctions for their children.

    I do agree that a lot of media, especially due to the influences of marketing towards children, is becoming more and more of a danger. The way they target children is almost as bad as giving them an addiction, considering how such ads and programming are as overwhelming as they are to relatively defenseless minds. This ups the difficulty for the parents, making it that much harder to maintain control.

  4. I am a huge fan of Dexter as well. Especially the subplot of change and the illusionary essence of existence. Also it is some of Hall’s best work. And that is comparing it to “Six Feet Under”, another good one.

    There needs to be some amount of common sense when allowing children to watch certain programs but again, for a 17 year old, I think the show is only a small and superficial part of the issue. The main part is how we interact and address these issues with our children.

    My parent’s hated my choice in music. From the Heavy Metal to the Death Metal to the Oi! and the punk. Each had undertones of anger, violence and in the case of the Misfits, just plain demon awesomeness. But instead of ignoring it or forbiding it, they engaged me with it. They listened to it, disliked it and told me why. It opened doors to discussions about spirituality, moderation and, as my father framed it, “being stupid but not being f**king stupid.” It also led my father to compare Glenn Danzig to Freddie Mercury … both vocally and in pure awesomeness.

    But, while my daughter still loves to dance to the beginning of “Rescue Me” and then plays with her dinosaurs, an amazing moment came when I saw her imitating my daily prostration along with a grunt near the end. End of story, we need to model as well as monitor.



  5. Good post man. Although, I admit I had to stop reading halfway through when you said “in the latest episode…” hahaha I’m still trying to catch up.

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