Children watch an average of three to four hours of television daily. Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. Unfortunately, much of today’s television programming is violent. Hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may, become “immune” to the horror of violence and gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems.
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Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness into children’s who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see. Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child’s behavior or may surface years later, and young people can even be affected when the family atmosphere shows no tendency toward violence.
While TV violence is not the only cause of aggressive or violent behavior, it is clearly a significant factor.
Because there is a great deal of violence in both adult and children’s programming, just limiting the number of hours children watch television will probably reduce the amount of aggression they see. Parents should watch at least one episode of the programs their children watch. That way they’ll know what their children are watching and be able to talk about it with them. When they see a violent incident, parents can discuss with their child what caused the character to act in a violent way. They should also point out that this kind of behavior is not characteristic, not the way adults usually solve their problems. They can ask their children to talk about other ways the character could have reacted, or other nonviolent solutions to the character’s problem.
Parents can outright ban any programs that they find too offensive by making sure they’re appropriate before your child watches them. Also you can restrict their viewing to shows that you feel are more beneficial, such as documentaries, educational shows and so on. It’s also a good idea to make sure your child has a wide variety of free-time activities in addition to TV, video games, and the Internet. Activities like reading, playing with friends, and sports can all play a vital part in helping your child develop a healthy body and mind.
Effects of Media Violence
The effect of media violence seems to be a heated debate among researchers and the public as well. According to David Gauntlett, “despite many decades of research and hundreds of studies, the connections between people’s consumption of the mass media and their subsequent behavior have remained persistently elusive.” (Gauntlett, 1998). He also states “that the media effects research has quite consistently taken the wrong approach to the mass media, its audiences, and society in general.” (Gauntlett, 1998). I agree with this statement, I think that the environmental and cultural influences have been neglected in the majority of the research done on this topic.
In all the research that I have read through, I have found that the researchers involved have many disagreements. I went to the Media Awareness Network website and found an article where Andrea Martinez did a review of all the scientific writing for a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. “She concluded that the lack of consensus about media effects reflects three “grey areas” or constraints contained in the research itself.” (Media Awareness Network, Par. 2) The three “grey areas” are that media violence is hard to define, researchers disagree over the relationship, and those that agree argue the way that one affects the other. It seems that the effect of media violence is hard to research and prove the kind of connection it has with aggressive behavior. In my opinion, it is hard to prove the relationship because there are too many external factors that need to be taken into consideration. Environmental and cultural influences, to me, seem like an important part that needs to be considered and in all the research I have seen it is not. According to Martinez, there is “a positive, though weak, relation between exposure to television violence and aggressive behavior.”
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Violence in the media can have different effects. I personally feel that it differs from each person, but also that it depends on each individual’s environmental and cultural influences. According to one website, there are four different psychological effects that can occur from violence in the media, they are Direct, Desensitization, Mean World Syndrome, and Catharsis. In the direct effect individuals who watch a lot of violence on television could attain aggressive behavior or be more favorable towards violence. I feel that the way the media portrays certain things is done in a way to purposely affect people’s emotions. There are certain instances where I do feel that the violence being shown in the media can cause anger, but it is in the way it is represented not because of the violence contained in it. In desensitization, the viewer may become less sensitive to violence occurring and less sensitive to the pain violence can cause. People who live in violent environments or cultures see violence a lot and can become desensitized to violence and therefore would be prone to act aggressively. When living in these environments it becomes more of a learned behavior rather than a reaction to the violence in the media. With Mean World Syndrome, the viewers may begin to view their environment as a violent place. To me, I would think the people that develop this syndrome are sensitive to what they see or are involved in. For someone to honestly believe that the world around them is a violent place and to not see the good that does occur is extremely hard for me to understand. Catharsis can possibly be a positive effect by actually reducing the aggression. I feel that these effects would have a lot to do with the individual as well as their environment as to how they will be affected. I have noticed though, that most of the research does seem to leave out the environmental and cultural effects. These effects, to me, seem to have a big influence on whether or not there would be a connection between media violence and aggressiveness.
The Media Awareness Network had a lot of other articles pertaining to media violence, but the majority of the research had been done with children. One experiment in particular seems to have stuck in my mind because of the age of the children involved. I unfortunately did not print up this article and cannot find it online anymore. From what I recall, they showed a certain group of 2-3 year olds a violent cartoon while showing another group a non-violent cartoon. When they put both groups in the same room to play, the toddlers that watched the violent cartoon were more aggressive than the toddlers that did not watch the violent cartoon. Many other researchers however stated that this study wasn’t very useful because cartoons are meant for comedic relief. In this study, it makes sense that the toddlers acted aggressively because that is what they had just seen. Toddlers, especially at this age, imitate what they see and hear. Since they were shown violence they acted out what they had seen. I do not think this would be an accurate way to test the effects of media violence or to prove a relationship between media violence and aggressive behavior, I think it showed that an individual would need to reinforce the toddler letting them know that what they see is not what they should do. If someone were to teach them this then they will know when they are older that they should not be violent or aggressive. Young children have yet to learn that violence is not the answer, and in a normal setting, the child behaving aggressively would be corrected so they would know that it was the wrong thing to do.
In my personal opinion I feel there is no correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior, if there is a correlation I believe it to be a very weak one. Correlational method is defined in our book as, “a numerical value that indicates the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables.” (Wood, Wood, and Boyd, 2004). Therefore, a correlation would be whether or not there is a relationship and if there is how strong or weak that relationship is. My personal belief is that just because an individual watches a violent movie, plays a violent video game, or listens to violent lyrics, does not mean that person will go out and act more aggressively or act out what they have seen or heard. To me, it seems to be common sense that seeing or hearing violent acts or behaviors does not mean someone should copy those behaviors or acts. I feel that if one were raised with any kind of morals or values, then they would know the difference between right and wrong and that an individual would know that they should not go and perform what they saw or heard. I strongly feel that the way an individual is raised directly affects how things affect that person and if they are raised in a happy non-aggressive environment then they would not act aggressively as a result of the violence in the media. When someone knows right from wrong, I feel that they would know not to act aggressively unless they are in a situation where aggressiveness is warranted. Granted, there are some instances where one would not know these differences. I feel that children of a certain age have not completely learned about morals and values, so they do not know that what they have seen or heard are the wrong things to do. This is why legally, a minor under the age of 14 cannot be held liable for their actions. Minors under 14 have not yet completely learned right from wrong and, therefore, cannot competently make decisions. This is why I don’t feel you can use children in any kind of research trying to define the relationship between media violence and aggressive behavior. There are also psychological disorders that could prevent an individual from comprehending the difference between right and wrong. People with very low IQ’s also may have trouble understanding the differences between right and wrong. Once again, individuals with these types of disorders cannot be held liable for their actions legally because they cannot competently make these decisions. In my opinion, the majority of people that commit these violent acts and then blame it on the media had no one to teach them the differences between right and wrong, or had no one around who cared to teach them these things. Unfortunately, there are also people that blame the media to try and have an excuse to get out of the consequences of their behaviors or actions. I feel that, in children, it is up to the parents to teach them what is acceptable and what is not, and to teach them that what they see and hear is not always the correct thing to do. I feel that society is blaming media violence for aggressive behavior when, for the most part, the blame should be laid on the individuals who brought up and cared for the individual. It was their responsibility to raise these individuals with the knowledge to know the difference between right and wrong and to know that being aggressive or violent is never the solution.
From what I have learned the effect of media violence is hard to measure and it is equally as hard to define if there is a relationship and how strong or weak that relationship is. The research on the effects has yet to yield anything conclusive and each researcher’s results vary as to whether the relationship between the violence and aggressive behavior is strong or weak. In the end, I maintain my belief that it depends upon the individual and their environment and culture as to whether or not there is a relationship and how strong or weak that relationship is.
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