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The Effects of Media Violence

Since the 1950’s when television became a national pastime, media violence and aggressive behavior among children and young adults have increased dramatically. Is there a significant association between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior? Studies have shown that watching television is one factor on youth violence and aggressive behavior, while continued research has proven other risk factors are at fault such as violent video games, bad parenting, and the communities these children grow up in. On the positive side, research has found that the effects of exposure to media violence can be reduced with monitoring of parents and professional attention. The illustration below shows that too much exposure to television can lead to aggressive behavior among children and young adults. (Ledingham, Richardson, 1993)

While children watch an average of 28 hours of television a week, studies show that same aggressive behavior after playing video games, watching movies and cartoons; even now the internet will encourage these same behaviors. At least two-thirds of U.S. kids have a TV in their bedrooms; half have a VCR or DVD player, half have a video game console, and almost one-third have Internet access or a computer (Jungbauer, 2009). This, naturally, makes monitoring media use difficult. “Children learn by observation and are especially vulnerable to fictionalized violent acts such as verbal and physical aggression; children learn fear, mistrust, and decreased sensitivity to violence in real life” (Smoots, 2003). Parents have the opportunity to control verbal and physical behavior among children and young adults. Parents can easily walk away and take a timeout from certain situations before “blowing up”. Parents can monitor children’s media diet by watching what video games are being played and television shows are being viewed. Thus, on the parent’s belief, parents can decide on what children watch and play. Parents can take into consideration by doing the following: set limits by reducing media time to 1-2 hours a day, discuss the program-by asking questions about the show, use screening options such as V-chip, and plan a viewing time to watch television and to play video games together. As the illustration below shows an example of children not being monitored of what they watch. Researchers believe without the monitoring of television viewing and playing video games among children and young adults lead to the aggressive behavior. (Ledingham, Richardson, 1993)

Over the years research has shown a strong relationship between viewing violence in television and playing video games have made children and young adults to become more aggressive in behavior. Research has shown that playing violent video games is becoming a high risk factor among children and young adults in today’s society. But as of today there have not been extensive studies that prove violent video games make children and young adults aggressive. “The number of studies investigating the impact of such games on youth aggression is small, there have been none on serious violence, and none has been longitudinal” (Youth Violence, 2008). One of the main focuses on media violence has become the research on video games and violence, what it contains and the affects it has on children and young adults today. For example, some researchers claim it was a video game (Doom) that sparked the shootings at Columbine High School back on April 20, 1999. There were other factors included such as problematic parents, racism, and watching violent movies-Natural Born Killers for one example.
For researchers to blame that shooting at Columbine High School on one video game (Doom) is all wrong, researchers need to gather more facts and information instead of jumping to conclusions. “Other risk factors like society, parents, and communities can be an influence on children and young adults as well” (Da-Wei, W. 2007). By monitoring the exposure to such as violence in society, parents, communities, television and video games, children and young adults can benefit from media culture. In the chart below it shows that youth violence was higher in the early 90’s when video games were not so popular. As video games became popular in the late 90’s throughout the 00’s youth violence had declined and has leveled out. Researchers need to start looking at these other factors and what is causing children and young adults this aggressive behavior instead of just video games. (Ferguson, C. J. 2009)

Is there a strong relationship between video games and aggressive behavior among children and young adults? There may be certain individual with aggressive behavior and might be affected by the exposure of violent video games, but this is still not determined. More negative results come from violence in the media and watching television than video games. Research suggests that not all youths are affected in the same way by viewing media violence and playing violent video games. Factors that appear to influence the effects of media violence on aggressive or violent behavior include characteristics of the viewer such as age, intelligence, aggressiveness, and whether the child perceives the media as realistic and identifies with aggressive characters (Youth Violence, 2008). In general, children and young adults who already have high aggressive attitude would be more affected than those who are not as aggressive.

Children and young adults do not understand the consequences of violent media; they believe violence is the way to handle situations out in the real world. For example “studies have shown that children who watched a relatively aggressive cartoon of Woody Woodpecker, researchers have discovered that the children who watched this aggressive cartoon became more violent and aggressive towards classmates” (Coleman, 2010). Researchers said despite all the studies on aggressive behavior, the more children and young adults are exposed to media violence the more aggressive they become in adulthood. Other studies have shown that the examining of media violence in a television show that the aggressor is being punished or the aggressor is being rewarded (Coleman, 2010). The viewing of violent movies can be misleading by children and young adults; media violence does have an overwhelming effect on children and young adults.

Although media violence definitely has a negative affect on children and young adults, some researchers claim that there is a positive effect as well. Media violence does not have to impact children and young adults like researchers claim it does. This is known as the Catharsis Theory, which cites violent media as potential outlet for aggressive behavior and decreased real world violence as a result (Da-Wei, 2007). In other words, if this theory is correct, then watching violent television and playing violent video games can help relieve aggressive behavior and stop aggressive behavior in the real world and among children and young adults. In the illustration below it show an adolescent playing a video game, adult supervision can prevent children and young adults from becoming aggressive. For example, preliminary data point to the potentially vital role a parent in supervising children and young adult’s exposures to violent media and violent video games in helping them interpret it (Youth Violence, 2008),(Awareness Network, 2010).

So let’s look at some other risk factors instead of blaming media violence and violent video games among children and young adults. The children’s upbringing or home environment can play an important role on whether they become aggressive or not. Parents, teachers, and even a professional psychiatrist can help monitor what children and young adults watch and play at home or in the classroom. Children whose parents and teachers discuss the situation about media violence and violent video games tend to be less aggressive than those of parents that do not discuss the situation about the violence behind violent television and video games. Other suggestions are sitting down and watching violent television shows and playing video games with the children and young adults. By doing so, parents can get a better understanding of what to ask and discuss with children before aggressive behavior becomes a problem. With parents and teachers having the knowledge and understanding what children and young adults are viewing will help in explaining what is wrong and what is right. Communities is another risk factor, if children and young adults are seeing violence out in the streets “the real world” they may tend to think that violence is the way to handle situation and become aggressive. This can be avoided by having children and young adults becoming more active in church organization do community service and have parents put a curfew on the children. This will help not letting the children stay out so late to view violence in the street after hours.

Children and young adults who have good relations with an adult or other peer who support conventional behavior and disapprove of delinquent behavior can provide invaluable guidance for young people. “Researchers agree that having a loving adult who is interested in and supportive of a child or young person’s ideas and activities helps that child or adolescent develop the confidence and competence needed to progress from one stage of development to the next” (Youth Violence, 2008). In the illustration below it shows how parents can become a better a better parent by paying attention to children and young adults.

Equally important; start early as possible when influencing children and young adult about the exposures of violent television and violent video games. “It is easier to enforce rules with younger children than with older ones, and younger children are the ones who appear to be more sensitive to the negative effects of video violence” (Ledingham, Richardson, 1993).

Over the past 50 years researchers on violent television and violent video games revealed evidence that media violence increase the aggressive and violent behavior in both children and young adults. Between the positive and negative there is a solution to correct the aggressive and violent behavior. Parents can monitor the use of television and video games. Spend more time with the children and young adults, understand what they are watching or playing, make time to be with the children and young adults. With just a few adjustments in parents busy schedule can improve the outcome of children and young adults. Communities, religious organizations, teachers, and society can teach parents and children to be more aware of media violence and the effects it has on today’s children and young adults. There is no less violence in today’s media. In my opinion, media violence and parents need to take a closer look at what is becoming of today’s children and young adults, before it gets out of control. With technology, professionalism, and children being monitored, it can be controlled.