Western explores violence in the media

Canada’s leading expert on concussions and a former NHL tough guy-turned-politician headline a major conference on the portrayal of violence in the media later this week at The University of Western Ontario.

Dr. Charles Tator, a Toronto-based neurosurgeon, and Georges Laraque, Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada, are featured guests at “When Violence Becomes Entertaining: Recapturing Childhood and Adolescence from the Toxic Influence of Media,” a two-day conference scheduled for October 20-21 in London, Ontario.

Tator and Laraque will join Peter Jaffe from Western’s Faculty of Education and former NHL referee Ron Wicks Thursday for the opening night panel discussion, “Violence in Sports: Promotion in the Media.”

More than 500 educators, parents, students and community professionals from the social service, health and justice systems will be gathering for the conference, which is sponsored by provincial associations of trustees, teacher federations and parents together with Western and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), to examine the harmful impact of media violence and what individuals and communities can do to address the problem.

Ray Hughes, National Coordinator for the CAMH’s Centre for Prevention Science, says televised sport, specifically hockey, has become a perfect example of glorified violence.

“The purpose of sports is to build character and teamwork rather than glorify the violence that many in the media promote through highlights and DVDs,” says Hughes. “There are more fights than goals posted to You Tube for today’s youth to watch over and over again. And that’s just wrong.”

Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) alone is sending more than 250 delegates as part of the board’s “Safe Schools” initiative.

Barb Sonier, the TVDSB superintendent responsible for “Safe Schools” says, “We now understand that to keep schools free of violence, we must deal with some of the underlying issues that promote problem attitudes and behaviours with our students, such as media violence.”

The conference will include smaller workshops for parents, teachers and students on a host of topics including cyber-bullying, internet safety, innovative curriculum and how to enhance media literacy for our students.

“Our partners are not opposed to all the great things that media does for society in terms of educating, motivating and connecting all of us,” says Jaffe, a professor at Western, a TVDSB trustee and a conference organizer. “Our major concerns rest with promoting violence as entertainment and the links between this exposure and maladaptive attitudes and behaviours.”

The full program for “When Violence Becomes Entertaining: Recapturing Childhood and Adolescence from the Toxic Influence of Media” is available here.