Violence has been a problem in our society since the beginning of time. However, this problem is growing even more in our present time, especially with new technologies and advancements paving the way for newer and more sophisticated weapons and firearms. What exacerbates this problem is that such firearms are now made even more accessible such that they often fall into the wrong hands and used for the wrong purposes.
In light of recent events where young people have been involved in shootouts, it can’t be denied that violence is an increasing problem even among the youth. Although there are many factors that lead these young people to commit acts of violence – including psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, exposure to community and domestic violence, child abuse, family psychopathology, and poverty (Beresin, 2010) – research shows that exposure to media violence also plays a major role in the development of violent behavior among the youth (Beresin, 2010), especially among those in segments that are considered at risk.
With about 99% of homes having television sets and more than half of children having their own TVs in their bedrooms (Beresin, 2010), these children practically have free rein over what they choose to watch on TV (Beresin, 2010). Statistics show that children spend 28 hours in watching TV every week and that children will have viewed over 200,000 acts of violence, including over 16,000 murders, by the time they turn 18 (Beresin, 2010). TV shows portray 812 violent acts every hour and even kids’ shows, such as cartoons, display about 20 violent acts per hour (Beresin, 2010).
Because of such exposure to media violence, children tend to imitate the violent behavior they see on TV when they play with their friends. Children younger than the age of 4 are unable to distinguish fact from fantasy ad tend to view violence as something that ordinarily happens. Moreover, violence is often depicted on TV from the perspective of conflict resolution where violence is depicted as frequent, efficient, and inconsequential. In these shows, heroes are rewarded despite their violent behavior. They become the role models of children, making carrying weapons and fighting with bad people cool.
Because of such depictions, violence is justified as a way for the victimized to defend themselves. This then urges vulnerable young people who have been victimized to resort to violence. Moreover, with children seeing violence all over the media, they may become desensitized to it, that is, they may start seeing violence as a part of life, which in time may make them lose their empathy towards both the abused and the abuser.
With the emergence of new forms of media, their exposure to violence increases even more. For example, statistics show that fifteen percent of music videos depict interpersonal violence (Beresin, 2010). Even the Internet and video games have a lot of violent content. Aside from video content, the Internet can also be a source of information on how firearms can be acquired or how explosive devices can be made. Although there are insufficient findings on the effects of video games on children, experts believe that the effects are extensive because with video games, the children are able to act out the violence as opposed to the movies or television shows where the children are merely passive observers.
A study conducted in Canada showed that children considerably became more aggressive two years after their town had television for the first time (The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 1994). Studies have also shown that children who preferred violent TV shows are bound to become aggressive as they grow older, which may lead them to get into trouble with the law (The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 1994). In addition, studies showed that boys were more affected by media violence than girls (The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 1994).
This is similar to the findings of L. Rowell Huessmann and his colleagues (“Childhood Exposure to Media Violence,” 2003) who conducted a 15-year study to determine the impact of media violence on children. In general, the results of the study showed that “the children’s viewing of violent TV shows, their identification with aggressive same-sex TV characters, and their perceptions that TV violence is realistic” are associated to later aggression when the children reach adulthood(“Childhood Exposure to Media Violence,” 2003). The study showed that this applied to both boys and girls from any family, regardless of the parents’ parenting style, the parents’ aggressiveness, the social status as determined by the parents’ occupation or education, the child’s intellectual capabilities, and the child’s initial aggression levels (“Childhood Exposure to Media Violence,” 2003). In particular, the results showed that the boys who watched TV violence a lot were considerably more likely to have shoved, grabbed, or pushed their spouses, to have shoved a person after having been insulted, and to have made a moving traffic violation. These men were found to have been convicted of crimes three times more than other men (“Childhood Exposure to Media Violence,” 2003). On the other hand, the women who watched a lot of TV violence as children were found to have made a traffic violation, committed some form of criminal act, choked, beat, punched, or shoved a person who made them angry, or thrown an object at their spouses (“Childhood Exposure to Media Violence,” 2003). It was found that these women were four times more likely than other women to have choked, beaten, or punched another adult (“Childhood Exposure to Media Violence,” 2003).The study further suggested that children were more likely to get influenced by violent characters with whom they could identify, who were rewarded for their aggression, and where children viewed the violence as realistic (“Childhood Exposure to Media Violence,” 2003). As such, the violence committed by anti-heroes is more likely to affect children than a fictional criminal who commits a gruesome murder and is later brought to justice.
In addition, media violence may make children more accepting of violent behavior in others and it may also make them fearful, especially they believe that violence is as common in real life as it is on TV (The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 1994).
In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that physicians advise parents about imposing viewing restrictions in their homes (Beresin, 2010). They recommend limiting TV viewing to 1 to 2 hours everyday and to watch TV with their children so they can provide their children with guidance with regards to the content of the shows.
Iowa State University (ISU) researchers Craig Anderson, Douglas Gentile, and Muniba Saleem also recommend the implementation of more effective public policy strategies (Psych Central News Editor, 2007). They assert that these policies don’t necessarily have to come in the form of legislation and that there are other unexplored ways by which such policies can be implemented (Psych News Editor, 2007). They claim that the reasons that previous policies have failed include a gap between what scientific findings indicate and what the society and the US courts understood; confusion over the scientific findings presented in courts due to the contradictory information presented by so-called video game industry experts; inconsistent standards of causality as applied by the courts and the scientific and medical experts; and a lack of precedent.
The ISU researchers further asserted that even the public not getting alarmed with this issue because of a phenomenon called the third-person-effect , which means that it’s easier for us to notice the effects of media violence on other people than in ourselves or on the people who are close to us (Psych News Editor, 2007). As such, parents don’t think that their children will be affected by media violence. However, the researchers claimed that the accumulation of the effects of media violence takes time, which makes it hard for them to be detected (Psych News Editor, 2007). They may start out small and unnoticeable at first but they may turn into something significant in the end.
Another reason for the lack of public concern is that the media usually focuses on the effects of media violence on instances such as the Columbine shooting. By associating media violence to heinous events like this, people are bound to think that such extreme acts of violence are incidental and that they won’t turn out the same way. However, the ISU researchers again asserted that the effects of media violence are subtle and that extremely violent acts are caused by many different factors, although media violence is not the least of them (Psych News Editor, 2007).
This paper discussed how media violence affected children where media comes in the form of TV, the movies, the Internet, music, or video games. It was shown that children lacked the understanding to distinguish real from fantasy and as such form the belief that violence is acceptable and justifiable under certain circumstances. It was shown that, although media violence is not the only factor that leads to aggressive behavior and that not all children are susceptible to such, it still plays an important role in contributing to the development of aggressive behavior in children, especially in those who are considered at risk. Experts also asserted that although the effects of media violence may be subtle and unnoticeable at first, they may become significant in the long run, and so steps should be taken to address them.
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