Recapturing childhood and adolescence from the toxic influence of media

On October 15-16, 2010 the Ontario Teachers’ Federation sponsored a Media Violence Prevention Conference in Toronto, Canada. This event was also supported with funds from the Ontario Ministry of Education and gathered teachers, parents, trustees, administrators, police officers and others interested in the impact of violent media on children and adolescents.

My intention in this post is to provide the materials and connections to a broader audience.


Dave Grossman
Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman

Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman – Relationship Between Media Violence & Violent Crime

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman spent a day with us discussing his topic: Identifying the Problem: The Relationship Between Media Violence and Violent Crime. Dave is one of the world’s leading experts on interpersonal aggression and violence. He was a West Point Psychology Professor and an Army ranger. Lt. Colonel Grossman co-authored Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence.

His energetic presentation led the audience through the latest in brain scan research showing the relationships between media violence and aggressive behaviours. “Media violence makes violent brains: violent TV, movie, and video game exposure had an effect on normal kids that made their brain scans the same as children with documented, diagnosed Aggressive Behavior Disorder.”

Professor Craig Anderson – Research on Effects of Violent Media

Professor Craig Anderson, Chair of the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University and President of the International Society for Research on Aggression. Anderson’s 150+ publications span cognitive, developmental, social and personality psychology. His General Aggression Model and pioneering work on video-game violence leads to consultations with educators, government officials, child advocates, and news organizations worldwide. His 2007 book on Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents summarizes what has been learned from past studies on this important social issue.

There are many tremendous resources (text, video) on his site. Here is an article: FAQs on Violent Video Games and Other Media Violence.

A.R. & S/Sgt. Robyn MacEachern – on Internet Exploitation

A.R., a victim of Internet exploitation and S/Sgt. Robyn MacEachern; “S/Sgt. Robyn MacEachern has been a member of the Ontario Provincial Police since 1994. While working as the Youth Issues Coordinator in the Crime Prevention Section, Robyn was responsible for developing awareness and prevention programs relating to Cyber Risks in partnership with the OPP Electronic Crimes and Child Sexual Exploitation Sections. She is the author of a published children’s book, Cyberbullying: Deal With It and Ctrl Alt Delete It. Currently, Robyn is Staff Sergeant with the OPP Aboriginal Policing Bureau.”

Sexual Exploitation

“As a young woman, A.R. was victimized by an online predator who manipulated interactive media to victimize hundreds of young people in what many perceived to be a harmless virtual world. A.R. will describe her encounters relating to the investigative, court and victim services processes that followed the online exploitation. She will provide insight for those working with youth to raise awareness of the impacts of interactive media and the online world.” Adapted from OTF brochure

What a moving presentation she and A.R. did. The audience was in tears – not because of the artistry of their performance. No. But because of the nature of the personal story she presented to us.

Dr. Charles Tator – Brain & Spinal Cord Injury Specialist

Dr. Charles Tator, sports medicine specialist, and Ron Wicks, former NHL referee, discussing the promotion of violence in sports; “Dr. Tator is a professor of neurosurgery, at the University of Toronto, and a neurosurgeon at the Toronto Western Hospital. He performs research in the epidemiology, prevention and treatment of acute brain and spinal cord injuries, and the University of Toronto Press recently published his book on Catastrophic Injuries in Sports and Recreation, Causes and Prevention—a Canadian Study. He has received the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. He founded ThinkFirst, Canada, a national brain and spinal cord injury foundation whose mission is to reduce the incidence of catastrophic injuries in Canada.” Adapted from OTF brochure

Action Agenda


Valerie Smith – Anti-Violence Activist

Valerie Smith, an anti-violence activist based in Toronto, shared some quite unbelievable statistics. She runs a site called The Free Radical. It is a wonderful library of information on media violence. She suggests that good place for Canadians to start their involvement is with the Action Agenda: A Strategic Blueprint for Reducing Exposure to Media Violence in Canada.

Panel Discussion

A panel discussion, facilitated by award-winning broadcast journalist Wendy Mesley, addressing the concerns of parents, students, activists, medical professionals, researchers, and law enforcement and education sectors; and


A broad range of workshops (pdf) to meet the varied needs and interests of participants, which included teachers, administrators, trustees and parents.

Brenda Sherry and I presented a session called Questioning Media is CRITICAL. There are links to excellent practical resources on the site.

Description: Help students use critical thinking to deconstruct the media messages they view around them every day, from commercials and print ads to websites and music videos. using the Media literacy curriculum, this session will show you how to help students to: recognize the forms of a variety of media texts; recognize bias and stereotyping; read “between the lines”; recognize whose voice is being heard and whose is missing; question the connections between entertainment and self-image; and question the motives that lie behind media productions and how these factors influence content.



A big ‘thank you’ to Siria Szurkhan, Rita Chow and Louise Murray-Leung of OTF for all their work.

  • Grossman image – Flickr ILVets
  • Sexual Exploitation – Thomas Hawk