The risks of viewing the most common depictions of televised violence include learning to behave violently, becoming more desensitized to the harmful effects of violence, and becoming more fearful of being attacked. Perpetrators of violent acts on television go unpunished three quarters of the time, thus teaching viewers that violence is successful. Almost half of all violent acts on television show no harm to the victims; more than half depict no pain. Other consequences, such as emotional or financial harm, are depicted less than 20% of the time. Less than 5% of programmes containing violence also show non-violent alternatives to solving problems.
Research published by the UK Broadcasting Standards Council in 1994 indicated that the rate of violence on television had increased from 2.9 scenes per hour in 1992 to an average of 4 scenes per hour in 1993. Other figures indicated an average of 5.4 violent scenes per hour on UK television compared to 6.4 per hour on television in the USA. In an average week on UK television in 1993: there were 737 dead bodies and 1,117 people injured; some form of violent action was present in 61% of programmes with 306 programmes containing 1,804 violent scenes, at a rate of one every 10 minutes, with higher percentage on satellite channels.
Several USA and Canadian studies have established correlations between prolonged childhood exposure to television and a proclivity for physical aggressiveness that extends from pre-adolescence into adulthood. One study monitored the effect of television upon the children of a remote Canadian community where television reception was only established in 1973, using for comparison two similar towns that had long had television. Before television was introduced, rates of inappropriate physical aggression were monitored. After two years of television, the rate increased by 160%, in both boys and girls, and in both those who were aggressive to begin with and those who were not. The rate in the two reference communities did not change. A study from 1960 to 1981 of 875 children in a semi-rural American county (controlled for baseline aggressiveness, intelligence and socioeconomic status) found among persons subsequently convicted of crimes, the more television they had watched by age 8, the more serious their subsequent crimes. A "second generation effect" was that the more television a parent had watched as a child, the more severely that parent punished children. In South Africa, which had no television prior to 1975, the homicide rate among white South Africans declined by 7% between 1945 and 1974, while it increased by 93% amongst white Americans and 92% in Canada. Neither economic growth, civil unrest, age distribution, urbanization, alcohol consumption, capital punishment not the availability of firearms explain the 10 to 15 year span between the introduction of television and the doubling of the homicide rate in the USA and Canada.
In the world as television presents it, violence is ubiquitous, exciting, charismatic and effective. In later life, serious violence is most likely to erupt at moments of severe stress – and it is precisely at such moments that adolescents and adults are most likely to revert to their earliest, most visceral sense of the role of violence in society and in personal behaviour, much of which will have come from television.
A 1996 study financed by the four major broadcasting networks in the USA found "promising signs" in the way the networks depicted violent acts on television.