There have been many studies conducted regarding the effects of viewing violence in the media, including how children are affected. Some studies have proven how the aggressive nature within in media violence can carry over into real world situations. In some situations the harm that was inflicted on others may have easily been prevented if the person or child had never been exposed to violence in the first place.
Through various media outlets, our children are exposed to violent behaviors that are either ignored or rewarded. Depending upon the child, seeing these types of acts allowed without punishment can have a wide range of effects, including leading the child down a road to committing violent acts as a teen or adult.
Though it is not an excuse, violence in media can be a contributing factor to criminal acts and aggression toward others. Some reports state that if media violence were controlled a little bit more, there would be less shootings and acts of violent behavior. Others reports express what is seen in the media makes no different in what happens in the real world.
Regardless of if the media causes aggressive behavior or not, there are many outlets where children are exposed to unnecessary violence at a young age. These outlets include:
- Comic Books
- Computer games
- Music videos
- Shopping guides
- Video games
Violence in the media can cause adverse behavior among those who may already be prone to violent behavior. According to the American Psychological Association, the National Institute of Mental Health had identified the major effects of violence in the media back in 1982. Theses effects could include:
- Becoming not as sensitive to others’ pain and suffering
- Becoming more fearful of the world around us
- Becoming more aggressive in behavior
- Becoming more harmful to others
- Believing violent behavior is accepted by society
- Believing there are no consequences for violent behavior
The above effects can make an individual believe it is okay to be violent, justifying any actions he or she may take against others in society. When a person is desensitized to the impact violent actions have on others, it is more likely they will not realize consequences associated with such actions.
Kinds of screen violence
According to the Center for Media Literacy, there are six kinds of screen violence kids are being exposed to via different aspects of the media, including:
Reward for violence: This is when the perpetrator is rewarded for the violent acts he or she commits. In most cases, the reward expressed in the media is the lack of punishment. Other acts are rewarded by a crowd cheering or encouraging the person to commit the crime.
Reality of violence: When violent acts are realistically represented in the media, they are more likely to be imitated. This goes beyond kids playing cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers. Older kids, especially those who are more emotionally responsive to violence, see that these acts are indeed possible.
Violent role models: A role model is someone children look up to and strive to be just like him or her. If a child’s role model is violent, the child will most likely identify with him or her, which can lead to more aggressive behavior in the child.
Justified violence: Many different movies, shows and even cartoons show that violence is okay when it I justified. This makes kids more apt to causing harm onto others if they truly believe that the violence is justified.
Violent connections: When kids find similarities between themselves and those conducting violence in the media, they feel they should act the same way. If kids feel they have a similar lifestyle or are being treated the same way as a character in a movie, then the child may be more likely to commit the same acts of violence in real life. Children are more likely to feel a connection with characters in books, on television and in the movies.
Amount of violence: The excessive exposure to violence is believed to reduce the negativity that should be associated with violence. Repeated exposure to violence only amplifies the desensitization toward violence.
Impact of media violence
According to American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, more than 16,000 murders will be seen through the media‘s more than 200,000 acts of violence the typical American child will be exposed to. All of these exposures will occur before the child turns 18 years of age. Even children’s programming, such as cartoons, promotes violence by displaying up to 20 violent acts per hour.
Television is making acts of violence, including carrying a gun everywhere, look cool. It is showing kids that it is okay to be abusive. That it is okay to beat someone up just because he or she got in your way. Or that it is okay to shoot up the school because you are getting bad grades or were given a detention. Kids are learning through the media that what is wrong may actually be okay by society’s standards. When in fact it is not.
Kids believe violence is accepted mostly because they are seeing these heinous acts being committed, even in the simplest of ways in the media. In addition, they are witnessing that there are no consequences for those committing these acts.
For example, look at the Coyote and the Road Runner. These cartoons are showing that it is acceptable to try and blow up your nemesis. While everyone in the audience chuckles at the fact that the Road Runner outsmarts the Coyote. Though these cartoons seem harmless, deep down, the do suggest violence is an acceptable act by all of society.
With the introduction of the Internet and new technology making access to other media outlets easier, kids are becoming more exposed to violence that ever before. Kids, and adults too, have instant access to just about any type of violence they can find with a simple click of the button. There are a variety of websites that show step-by-step how to make an explosive device or sites that guide kids to where they can purchase a gun right in their local area.
Violence in the media facts
Here are some facts regarding violence in the media from the Media Education Foundation:
- A Federal Trade Commission report from 2000 stated that 80 percent of all “R” rated movies, 70 percent of video games that have restrictions and 100 percent of explicit music that contained warning labels were still being marketed to children under the age of 17.
- Young children under the of eight years of age are more susceptible to violence in the media because they cannot easily determine the different between fantasy and real life.
- Random surveys uncovered that more than 80 percent of Americans feel movies are too violent.
- Saturday morning cartoons have higher levels of violence than the violence shown in prime time television. On average prime time television has three to five violent acts per hour while Saturday morning cartoons have 20 to 25 acts of violence per hour.
- Nearly 75 percent of all violent acts portrayed on television feature no immediate punishment for the crime.
How to prevent
Preventing kids from seeing media violence is one of the best way to help reduce the risks of them expressing violent behavior when they grow up. Though we cannot fully stop all of the violence shown throughout different media outlets, we can do everything possible to restrict our children’s exposure to it.
Here are some tips to help prevent kids from being overexposed to violence in the media:
- Limit television to only one to two hours per day
- Watch television programming with the kids
- Be aware of what types of media your kids are being exposed to
- Sit down and explain the real life consequences of the violence they see
- Discuss how it is impossible to get away with such violent behavior in real life
- Teach kids conflict resolution versus using violence
- Discuss what they see and how it made them feel
- Explore alternatives to what they are already watching
- Speak with other parents to share media-related tips
- Share media tips with other parents
- Keep kids busy with other activities that will stop them from sitting in front of the television or computer
How to inspire change
Not everyone is on board with the stopping of violence in the media. Because of this, our kids will continually be exposed to various acts of violence in one form or another. For those wanting change, there is still hope. However, it is a long road and a lot of work needs to be done if you want to help inspire change.
It is important for everyone wanting what is represented in the media changes to stand up for what they believe in. Those seeking change need to contact and speak up to national networks, cable vendors, local television and radio stations, federal agencies and political officials. Change can be triggered even with starting small at the local level. To get your voice heard, consider getting involved with national debates over the media violence and children.
There is no one solution to stopping all of the violence in the media. However, it is important to restrict the access of media to young children and teens. As a community, it is important to stop media violence on local networks, in newspapers and on local radio stations. If there is a reduction in the amount of exposure to the violence, maybe we can start seeing a decline in the amount of violence our communities are suffering from in real life.