In a study conducted in the United States between 1977 and 1995, psychologists Leonard Eron and Rowell Huesmann concluded that greater exposure of children to violence in the media is the cause of more violent behaviour in youth and adulthood.
Children and young people learn by imitation, which is why Chilean regulations oblige television channels to deliver the following message every day: “As of 22:00 hours this channel is authorised to broadcast programmes for those over 18 years of age”.
It is striking that images and information shown in matinees and news programmes before 10 p.m. would not pass the television rating if they were fiction. Femicides, homicides, gender and xenophobic violence, political and religious violence, common crime and drug trafficking, robberies and kidnappings are the backbone of Chilean television. Television is regulated to some degree, but access to apps, social networks, streaming, websites and electronic games is not, and access to them depends only on the better or worse supervision of older people in the family or at school.
Learning by imitation is not only limited to violence, good things and bad things are learned. What strikes us most at Fundación Semilla are the hyper-competitive behaviours under a model of “every man for himself and at any cost” because only I, my success and my wellbeing matter.
The normalisation of individualistic behaviour leads many children and young people to try to find their own way by imitating real and/or fictional characters who have achieved success. Most do not succeed and face adverse outcomes such as frustration, distress and anxiety because, while individual effort is necessary, it is absolutely insufficient to succeed.
People who make it to the top do not do it alone, they do it in collaboration and as part of a team. Unfortunately, the education system has the incentives in the wrong place by promoting individual learning along with individual assessment.
So ingrained is hyper-individualism in our culture that the series The Squid Game was watched worldwide by one hundred and ten million people during its first month as reported by Netflix. The most successful series in its first month of release.
It’s about 456 debt-ridden, troubled and overwhelmed people who participate in six children’s games where the rules are simple and familiar. The winners win a prize of almost $40 million (Ch$32 billion). Anything goes to win and losers not only lose the game, they also lose their lives.
The stakes are very high and so are the rewards. For this reason, both the school system and the family must exert a force to counteract individualism by becoming a good example of values of solidarity and respect for rights that are worthy of imitation by children and young people.