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The Greatest Advantage Of Mass Media Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 4020 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The greatest advantage of mass media is the power to reach a large number of people all around the world in a very short period of time. It plays an important role in our everyday lives. Mass media influences our likes and dislikes, opinions regarding many important issues, views, behavior, our values and our style. Its primary purpose is to inform, but looking at it from the perspective of the viewer its main purpose is to entertain. On everyday basis children are being exposed to television and what is on it. Unfortunately, violence has taken over the entertainment world not only on television, but also in video games and movies. For many years massive amount of violence in media has been of great concern not just for parents, but also for researchers and psychologists. In this study my main focus is on the effects media violence has on children and how parents can approach children to reduce the effect of media violence.

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Before we take a further step into looking at the effects of violence in mass media let us define mass media. According to Lane, “by definition, mass communication is a message created by a person or a group of people sent through a transmitting device (a medium) to a large audience or market.” [1] To make it simpler mass media is: radio, television, film, newspapers, internet, books, video games and other devices that reach and influence people all over the world.2 The three main functions of mass media are to provide us with information and entertainment and allow us to kill boredom. As stated by Signorielli, the medium that is part of everyday life and most often used by us is the television. On average, or television set is ‘on’ for more than seven hours each day. Children and older people are most likely to be exposed to more television than adolescents or adults.3 According to Signorielli, “the Center for Media and Public Affairs isolated physical violence on ten channels (network, independents and cable) during one day. Violence appeared most frequently during the afternoon (2 to 5 PM), with 191 acts per hour; early morning (6 to 9 AM), with 158 acts per hour; and prime time, with 102 acts per hour.” 4 As said by Signorielli, most of the violent acts that are on television may channel the message that aggressive behaviors are not actually considered wrong. A lot of times characters who commit violence are not sorry for what they have done and they do not face any consequences for their actions. Additionally, television usually does not show the realism of violence and how things would turn out in real life for a person who has committed a crime such as stealing or murder. A

lot of times violence on television is rather presented in the context of humor and comedy. Such messages may seem to be acceptable by viewers, especially children, and make them think that it is all right to follow such aggressive model behaviors.5

Researchers, who take an interest in media violence, especially televised violence, and in how it influences children, have put forward four findings:

The first and perhaps most important factor is observational learning, which refers to the process through which people learn to imitate role models and types of behavior, especially if the behavior is perceived as being rewarded. This process seems to be at work not only in the imitation of televised aggression among children, but also in the influence of highly publicized murders, suicides, and prize fights among adults.

The second factor is the change in attitudes that often occurs through television viewing. Studies have shown that children who watch substantial amounts of television are more likely than less avid viewers to accept aggressive behavior in other children. Other research suggests that violence on television can cultivate attitudes of suspicion and images of an extremely violent world in the minds of its viewers.

A third possible factor is physiological arousal, the idea that viewers are stimulated by observing violence, to which they may nevertheless become desensitized over time, and that this arousal leads to, or is maintained by, subsequent aggressive activity.

The fourth factor involves the process of justification. Many people who watch televised violence may already engage in violent behavior or possess aggressive tendencies, and may then find in television a form of justification for their actions.6


5 Nancy Signorielli, 33-34.

6 Brent D. Ruben and Todd Hunt, Mass Communication. Consumers and Producers, (New York; HarperCollins

College Publishers, 1993), 85-86.

Looking at the above findings it can be concluded that violence in media has a huge effect on children, as well as on adults. But let us not jump to conclusions and take a closer look at these situations and interpret them with greater attention to detail and with reference to facts.

There is a great controversy whether media violence has any impact on children’s behavior. A single conclusion has not been reached, but enough data has been gathered to give attention to many important facts. Researchers have been investigating the effects of mass media through two leading approaches:

The survey is carried out in the real world and usually consists of a large group of individuals who answer questions put to them via a questionnaire… A special kind of survey, a panel survey, allows researchers to be more confident about attributing patterns of cause and effect in survey data. The panel study collects data from the same people at two or more different points in time. As a result, it is possible, using sophisticated techniques that control the effects of other variables, to see if viewing televised violence at an early age is related to aggressive behavior at a later date.

The experiment is performed in a laboratory and usually consists of the controlled manipulation of a single factor to determine its impact on another factor. A special kind of experiment, a field experiment, is conducted in a real-life setting. Field experiments are more realistic than laboratory experiments but they are also harder to control.7

Media violence has not just been a concern of parents, researchers and psychologists, but also of government. All the studies that have been conducted over the years have been done so through laboratory experiments and field studies. According to the article Research on the Effects of Media Violence, hundreds of studies conducted over the years proof that “exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively and affects them as adults years later.”8 The article also mentions that in 1956, a laboratory experiment has been conducted on 24


7 Joseph R. Dominick, The Dynamics of Mass Communication; 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing

Company, 1990), 530-531.

8 Media Awareness Network, Research on the Effects of Media Violence, (2010),

http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/violence/effects_media_violence.cfm .

children. Researchers have divided these children into two equal groups. The research focused on children watching television, in this case cartoons and their behavior afterwards. One of the groups watched an episode of Woody Woodpecker, which contained violent acts, and the other watched an episode of The Little Red Hen, which was free of violence. Afterwards all 24 children were taken into the same room to play. The researchers have noticed that boys and girls, who have seen, Woody Woodpecker, acted more violently than children that have seen the non-violent one. Children who have seen an episode of Woody Woodpecker were more violent toward other children and were the ones to break things. The article Research on the Effects of Media Violence mentions, Jeffrey Johnson, a professor at the University of Columbia, who for 17 years has observed 707 different families in upstate New York. He started in 1975 and concluded his studies in 2002. As a result he declared that boys and girls who were exposed to a few hours of television on daily basis were more likely to be aggressive as adults. He stated that 60 percent of those children were more likely to get into fights and be aggressive toward others.9 As stated by Hunt, over the years the government has commissioned studies to prove that media violence contributes towards aggressive behavior in children. In the 1960s two commissions have been set up by the government – the National Commission on the Cause and Prevention of Violence and the Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on TV and Social Behavior – to take up studies in how media violence affects children. Two methods, laboratory experiments and field studies, were used in those studies. As a result it has been determined that “viewing violence on TV contributes to violent or aggressive behavior in viewers.” 10

Going back to what the researchers have found Smith states that, “observational learning, also known as social learning or modeling, is a form of learning in which people acquire new behavior by watching someone else perform that behavior. The person performing the behavior is known as the model, and the learner is known as the observer.”11 Observational learning is the process of children imitating characters from TV and their behaviors. According to Dominick, the best known observational learning researcher is Albert Bandura and his experiment with a rubber doll called Bobo doll.12


9 Media Awareness Network, http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/violence/effects_media_violence.cfm .

10 Brent D. Ruben and Todd Hunt, 83.

11 S.E. Smith, What is observational learning?, (September 8, 2010),


12 Joseph R. Dominick, 540.

Through the experiment that has been conducted in the 1960s by Albert Bnadura and his co-workers showed that violence on “TV and movies were serving as a school of violence.”13 As stated by Dominick, in one of the experiments, that Bandura performed, preschool children were seated in front a film in which a person acted aggressively towards a rubber doll. Children who have seen the film and were placed in the same situation with the rubber doll acted quite more violently towards the doll than those children who have not seen the film before. In recent years a similar experiment has been conducted except this time a human being dressed as a clown took over the role of the rubber doll. A large number of children attacked the clown with aggression although it was a smaller number than in the case of the rubber doll. However, this only pertains to the children who have seen the film. Those who have not seen it did not take up such actions. It has also been concluded from this experiment that children who were given a prize for being aggressive and who saw that the people in the movie were also being rewarded for it were far more violent.14 This experiment showed that children imitate actions that they see on TV. They want to be and act alike because they think it is acceptable to do so. I think that parents play a large role here since it is their duty to talk to their children and help them distinguish right from wrong.

To argue the other side of this experiment, Dominick states, there is some evidence to suggest that media violence may not be entirely responsible for aggressive behavior in children. To begin with, films that are made for such experiments, as the one with the Bobo doll, are produced especially for that experiment. They are often short in length and focus on a single situation. The film usually does not show the motives for that kind of action and the consequences that may take place after. The other point to consider is the amount of violence that children were exposed to before since it may also have an impact on how they act. If they find themselves in a surrounding that is similar, they will feel more comfortable watching it and are more likely to behave aggressively.15

Viewers who are exposed to a massive amount of media violence, according to Anderson, are more likely to think of the world as the place where violence is the only way to get what we want and that it is composed of brutality and fear. Children who are in constant contact


13 Joseph R. Dominick, 540.

14 Joseph R. Dominick, 541.

15 Joseph R. Dominick, 541.

with media violence are more likely to accept violence in other children.16

To better understand why violence in mass media may have an influence on children we have to look at the amount of time that children are being exposed to such mediums every day. In the past few years, the amount of violence in mass media has greatly increased, and the amount of time that children spent in front of the television, playing video games and watching action shows.17 According to Shapley and the survey that has been conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “today’s kids are working the equivalent of a full-time job consuming media: 7 hours and 38 minutes every day, on average.” 18 These days it seems that media devices have taken over children’s lives, but that should not be a surprise since we live in a world filled with technological devices. It is more a matter of how much time parents allow their children to be exposed to such devices. Hutton stated that, the other thing that has been of great concern is that children have become masters of multitasking. They are able to divide their attention between two or more devices at the same time.19 “Counting each device separately, these kids have found a way to cram in a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content into those 7 and a half hours.” 20 During that time children will witness hundreds of violent acts and for many it will be difficult to tell the difference of what is real and what is fiction. According to the article Violence in Media Entertainment, two professors from Laval University, Guy Paquette and Jacques de Guise, have carried out a study from 1993 until 2001. They have examined various programs, including children programming, on six Canadian television networks. Their studies have shown that the number of violence acts on television has risen by 378 per cent that is between the years 1993 and 2001. Violence acts on television have not just increased in number, but also in quality. Media violence has become more brutal, bloodier, uglier and due to great technology more realistic.21

Many times it is shown on TV that violence is a good and adequate way to get what you


16Craig A. Anderson, et al., The Influence of Media Violence on Youth; Vol. 4, No. 3 (December 2003),

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/pspi/pspi43.pdf .

17Lindsay Hutton, The M2 Generation. Are Your Kids Too Dependent on the Media?


18 Dan Shapley, Kids Spend Nearly 55 Hours a Week Watching TV, Texting, Playing Video Games…, (January

20, 2010) http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/kids-television-47102701.

19Lindsay Hutton, http://life.familyeducation.com/computers/television/65248.html.

20 Lindsay Hutton, http://life.familyeducation.com/computers/television/65248.html.

21 Media Awareness Network (2010), Violence in Media Entertainment,


want. According to the article How TV Affects your Children, youngsters are usually taught to copy the actions of good guys, but these good guys sometimes push themselves to violent acts themselves to achieve something. All parents teach their children that kicking, hitting or biting is wrong. On the other hand we see that television shows kids otherwise; it shows them that it is acceptable for good guys to do so. Who are the children to believe? All this may lead children to become confused and disorientated. Since many children want to imitate their favorite TV characters they may push themselves to aggressive behaviors to get want they want, moreover, they may feel unsafe in their environment and fear that something bad may come their way. 22

Children who are exposed to massive amounts of violence are less likely to feel any sympathy for victims of violent acts. They may get the impression that being a victim is all right. According to Cardwell and Flanagan:

Under normal conditions, anxiety about violence inhabits its use. Media violence may, however, stimulate aggressive behavior by desensitizing children to the effects of violence. The more televised violence a child watches, the more acceptable aggressive behavior becomes for the child. Frequent viewing of television violence may cause children to be less anxious about violence. Therefore those who become desensitized to violence may perceive it as ‘normal’ and be more likely to engage in violence themselves. 23

Due to the massive exposure of media violence children become desensitized to real acts of violence. This exposure decreases the feeling of empathy and concern towards victims of real violence. Children, who watch tremendous amount of media violence, become indifferent to media violence and in the long run to the violence and victims of violence in real life.

According to Gelletly and a study that Dr. David Satcher has conducted, Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General, media violence is a probable factor for acts of children violence. Gelletly also states that in some cases of violence there are similarities and imitations of movie characters that the children saw. Let us look at the year 1993, when a two-year-old child was kidnapped and murder by two eleven-year-old boys. This crime has occurred after the


22KidsHealth from Nemours. “How TV Affects Your Child”


23 Mike Cardwell and Cara Flanagan , Psychology A2. A Complete Companion, (United Kingdom; Nelson

Thomas LTD., 2004), 52.

boys have seen the movie Child’s Play 3. Those two eleven-year-old boys were imitating the main characters in the movie. To shortly summarize the movie is about two boys who try to kill a doll that is possessed by evil. Another incident happened in 1995, when a group of teenagers set a New York City subway employee on fire. This has been an imitation of a scene from a movie that has been released the same year as that incident took place. In 1998, a twelve-year-old from Maryland committed suicide leaving a letter citing a cartoon character, Kenny, from the show South Park. Another eleven-year-old hangs himself and it is believed that he has been triggered by Kenny’s character to do so. It was reported that a few days before his death he mentioned a couple of times that it is OK if he dies because he will be back and everything would be normal.24 In a way media should be blamed for all these incidents because we can see a definite connection between media violence and real-life. We do not know the true story behind these incidents and what really forced these children to commit such acts, but we can see that media violence had been an inspiration for them. Additionally, Gelletly states that, it would be a mistake to deny the fact that these ‘copycat crimes’ are not in a small portion the result of media violence that children are being exposed to. 25

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Media violence and its influence have been of concern for decades. Somewhat cautiously it can be said that media violence has affected children in the past and still is. Levine stated that, “there is no question that children learn from the television shows and movies they watch.”26 By far media has the greatest influence on our children since children spend more of their free time exposed to mediums than enjoying the outside or studying. However, according to Levine, parents can take action and lower the exposure of their children to violence or take part in what they are watching.27

Levine emphasis that the first step that parents should take is to limit the time that children sit in front of the television or spend time using other mediums, but most importantly parents should be a part of what their children watch. Studies have shown that shows and movies

that children watch do not grab their parents’ attention.28 “Less than half of all parents monitor


24 LeeAnne Gelletly , Violence in the Media, (Michigan; Thomson Gale Corp, 2005), 62-65.

25 LeeAnne Gelletly 62-65.

26 Madeline Levine, See No Evil. A Guide to Protecting Our Children from Media Violence, (San Francisco;

Jossey-Bass Publishers’ 1998), 199.

25 Madeline Levine, 199.

28 Madeline Levine, 206-207.

their child’s television viewing.” 29 Levine stated that, the only concern that parents have when it comes to watching television is the time their children stay up. It is impossible for parents to sit at all times with their children and watch television, but at least parents should get a sense of what their children are watching.30 Once parents are somewhat aware of what their children like and are interested in, “they can develop a plan to help their child avoid the worst of what TV offers and enjoy the best.” 31 If parents get the opportunity to watch television with their children they should bring up discussions about what they are watching. As said by Levine, the discussion could focus on how the cartoon character or the actor could solve its problems without the use of violence. Many times television avoids showing the consequences of violent behavior of its actors. This could encourage a discussion on what consequences would there be in real life.32 Parents should help their children understand right from wrong and help them realize that violence is not the answer to our problems and that what they see on television is not always acceptable in real life.

Over the years hundreds of studies have been conducted and have shown that aggressive behaviors that children develop are the results of media violence that children have soaked up over the years. The massive amounts of violence that children are exposed to everyday make them think that violence is an efficient way in solving their problems and it may lead to real-life violence. Television has become the number one medium of visual violence. As it has been mentioned above children watch the same amount of television as if they were working a full-time job. The use of mediums takes up most of the time that children have for themselves during the day and the time that they should spend on other activities. Violence is everywhere whether in cartoons, movies, news, or the Internet; it has taken over the entertainment world and the world of our children. Parents should place boundaries at the amount of time that their children spend watching TV and limit the amount of media violence in their lives and most importantly encourage discussions on media violence. Parents should not use mediums as babysitters and they should pay attention to what their children watch, play or what websites they view online.


29 Madeline Levine, 207.

30 Madeline Levine, 208.

31 Madeline Levine, 208.

32 Madeline Levine, 208.


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