Media Violence Essay
A number of psychological problems are surfacing these days, especially concerning the younger generation. The open viewer ship of television, movies & playing video games instill young children with the aggression & violent energy of the show. It has been deduced through extensive research that children who view more media violence are more verbally & physically aggressive becoming more anti social as the years pass.
“Media violence exposure is described as a risk factor for aggressive beliefs and behaviors, and it is argued that media violence exposure in combination with other risk factors for aggression (e.g., hostile attribution bias, sex, prior aggression) can produce an effect greater than any single risk factor alone.” (For further review Gentile et al 2004)
Psychologists have been conducting researches to learn more about the physical & mental effects of violence through media. The intense & antagonistic music, lyrics & videos affect the viewers most negatively regardless of their age. Even the cartoons which are meant purely for children’s viewing have turned aggressive & boisterous. In classrooms students are getting into fights with co- students & forming cliques comprising of most popular & un- popular students all derived from the latest TV series. This impact is seen in girls more than in boys; however the boys are more into the aggressive attitudes physically.
The matters to be discussed are:
- How the media affects the minds of young children?
- What steps are being taken by the parents to control these consequences?
- What measures are the media related people taking so as to broadcast less violence in TV shows?
- The government & officials dealings to solve this problem?
The problems occurring due to this social learning; a process where an individual learns by watching & imitating others instead of ones own experiences, by exposure to TV violence in the early years are numerous. Some main points to be highlighted are:
- Diminishing of the involuntary concern for another’s suffering.
- Losing the sensitivity towards violence & aggression by becoming habitual.
- Imitating the violent acts as seen in the movie.
- Exhibiting a hostile attitude towards others.
Prevalence of risk factor:
Due to the availability of many media options like cable television, DVDs, & the ever progressing video games. Unlimited time is being spent in watching cartoon & animated movies, which are becoming more sadistic as the technology advances; generating a number of behavioral, social & emotional problems. At times the media simply provide a boom to an already disturbed child under stress due to family or school troubles. Often it causes severe psychotic disorders & pervasive developmental disorders with a very low frequency which makes it difficult to identify the main causes. (Merrell K. 1999)
Description of risk factor at different ages:
The risk factors in media violence are many & observed differently at each age level & also gender wise. A research concluded at 99% of American families have televisions at home, 87% a VCR, 54% children have televisions & video games in their own bedrooms. Average time an American child spends per day, in viewing different types of media is 6 hours & 43 minutes; of which 90 minutes each day is spent in playing video games. This deduces that they consume double the amount of time in watching TV & playing video games then they spend at school annually. Children are mostly fascinated by the fantasies & stories hence fantasy based games are the most popular among kids. The total estimation of the profit earned by the video games industry is a whopping $ 10 billion dollars a year, even crossing the gross of the ever popular motion pictures.
It has not yet been deduced how the media violence effects infants but it may cause them to imitate behaviors in a minimal manner, from what they grasp. Usually the viewer ship becomes stronger when they reach the age of two & a half or above. That’s the time when they develop the ability to grasp the right meaning of what they view on television & then incorporate it in their actions.
The children of age group 6 – 8 are most likely to be fascinated by what they view on media. They do not have the experience & maturity to characterize between the real life & fantasy hence; they feel infatuated by the fictional characters & try to imitate their actions verbally & physically. Many children, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, answer mostly the names of superheroes they watch & admire on TV like superman or batman.
When the movie superman was released many children tried to copy the flying act by tying a cape around their neck & jumping from a higher place. This ended up in a number of casualties & therefore frustration on not being able to carry out the task, which the superman so flawlessly renders. This is not an only example; the horror movies children view also create negative effects in the young minds. When the movie Childs play was released, a huge number of children threw away their dolls & had countless nightmares by imagining the face of chucky the evil doll & feeling scared.
The young age is open to magical ideas & fantasies. They consider the on-screen violence as reality, this though process gradually develops as the child ages & the difference between reality & fantasy diminishes. The TV is taking over the family moments. This development is progressing with great pace which is an extremely serious issue & needs to be tackled & controlled by the parents & with the collaboration of the media related people.
The media viewing habits that the children develop at an early stage influence their life throughout the ages. The inspiration they take from the fast paced & colorful cartoons & movies will embark a feeling of aggression at a premature level. The exploring property of young minds fosters them to learn the violent actions of the characters & emulate them themselves. This characteristic is further highlighted by the intense sounds & music supporting the movie.
The reality & enjoyment level of the violence creates de-sensitization. It is a feeling when the individual, loses the feeling of compassion or sensitivity & becomes oblivious to the violence being broadcasted in front of him. This process is cemented by the high levels of graphics being used in video games & movies these days. The points or rewards on killing, blood showing & body mutilation in video games are considered as normal undertakings.
Depression is considered to be the major psychiatric disease of the 20th century. (M. Abdel et al, 2006) This problem is becoming common in young children as well, mostly appearing during the teenage years, it intervenes with a child’s psychological, social & academic functioning evoking a suicidal behavior. The signs are often showcased by a child exhibit frustration & low tolerance.
Various factors are materializing due to the media violence exposure in children:
- Epidemiologists who have been studying the factors of violence & other common social issues discovered that exposure to violent media played a vital part in 10,000 homicides committed in the United States of America last year (E. Cook, 2000)
- Individuals preferring heavy metal music are more subjective to psychological disarray, substance exploitation, & suicidal risk in the extreme stage during adolescence.
- The effects of interactive media like internet & video games are more enduring & persuasive on violent behavior than passive media like television as they have increased levels of aggression & hostility having a tendency to make the individual insensitive to violence.
- An inclination towards using drugs & indulging in unsafe sex, contributing to the widely spreading diseases like HIV aids, cancer of different types.
Specific effects on children/adolescents
The students of middle school or high school, around the age of 12 to 17 are very much capable of theoretical thinking & elucidation. However, when exposed to the world of media they do not utilize these mental abilities, making them as prone to media violence effects as younger children. By this age they get much independence by the parents, thus making them highly vulnerable to in appropriate media. This is more compelling for boys than in girls; however, girls too are being captivated into the same habits nowadays. They indulge in viewing media dealing issues in negative ways including loud music videos, horror & often pornographic content.
A research conducted by the of Washington epidemiologist Brandon Centerwall, evaluated that among one- quarter & one- third convicted young male criminals had consciously imitated the violent techniques they had seen on television.(Tepperman)
Some percentage of youngsters both male & females who associate the media content with real life are more prone to becoming aggressive later in life, however they are less prone to identify with television characters & doubt the reality of media at this age as compared to younger children. Whereas younger children, are much enthralled & captivated by the aggressive heroes depicted in the media. Excessive exposure to strong media generates some particular effects on children like:
- The violent behavior might perceive them into becoming attackers.
- It may induce fear in the individual hence creating a victimized effect.
- The excessive viewing of violent content may make them insensitive & ruthless to the belligerence happening around them in media or in real life.
- It can make them ambitious for yet more aggression & violence by creating an effect of negative desire.
The children studying at elementary school level are very keen in recognizing patterns of the actions depicted in media especially cartoons which appeal to them the most. Their cognitive abilities make it a grave period to make conjectures about the vociferous content & recognize motivations of the characters.
The society should show some concern to the risks encompassed & being spread through media. The fact that a young mind learns & develops aggressive behavior & later becomes desensitized to it; has been proven by a number of scientific researches. The violence itself is not the attraction for younger children, the graphic content & dramatic production features set up the hype. As young as preschool students view cartoons like Pokemon which has been banned earlier in many countries due to its violent theme.
The children not just enjoy the cartoons; they buy the merchandise & games of their favorite show as well. Another factor that appears here is when the families who cannot afford such extravagance fail to comply with the Childs demands; it creates a sense of severance in him or her. This might induce him to steal or get into fights so as to hide this feeling. It has been noted by parents & teachers alike, that when preschooler watch any stimulating action oriented content, they become more aggressive in their play. The teenagers have a predisposition to confront conventional authority making them vulnerable to interpret some television violence & especially exposé of suicide & murders.
If we observe the viewer ship of programs like MTV & WWE containing explicit matter, it is clear that children most exposed to these programs are verbally & physically more aggressive & anti social. Children viewing WWE are physically more violent & get into more fights at school.
Both the viewers showed decline in school grades. Girls surprisingly have a higher tendency than boys to get into fights. The steps that appear in children exposed to violence on media making them most likely to imitate it are:
- Identification with the hero & the program itself.
- Fantasizing about the program & creating one’s own stories on its bases.
- The aptitude to commit the act.
Vulnerability and protective factor
The expansion of children’s media started in the early 1940s & up till now comprises of television, video tapes, DVDs, electronic games, interactive soft wares. The visual media has flourished more as compared to the print media like comic & story books. The 1990s saw a transformation of media into a more violent & physically aggressive medium. The rating system that they used to label the content has not been implemented properly thus provoke the risk of violence in young children, often traumatizing them & affecting their judgmental qualities.
The media portrays unrealistic concepts regarding beauty & physical appearances as sales tactics. This is perceived by the young minds in a negative way propelling them to opt for unhealthy diets & suffer body disorders & psychological effects when they are unable to attain that look. Minimum 20 hours per week are spent in television viewing by an average American child not counting the time spent on movies, music, video games & Internet. This association with media is promoting inactivity the children. Less time is spent on studies & social life. The parents use the TV as a way to get the children out of the way. Especially mothers so they can complete housework with ease.
The use of tobacco, alcohol & illicit drugs is represented as high glamour in the media. The characters of the movies or TV shows often shown indulging in them. (Clark, 2007) $6 billion & $2 billion dollars are spent annually by the tobacco & alcohol manufactures respectively in advertising their product. Educational messages are also broadcasted but on a much smaller scale.
Repeated viewing of the harmful content has been noted to lower emotional response to violence & increase hostility in individuals. Studies have documented that desensitization results in reduced arousal and emotional disturbance while witnessing violence.
A survey conducted in Ohio, in 1998 of more than 2000 3-8 grade students showed that as the viewer ship increased the psychological effects like anxiety, depression & posttraumatic stress increased as well. (Cantor, 2002) A normal American child witness more than 8000 murders on media by the time he’s 11, 75% of these show the murderer performing the act without any regret making the children either insensitive or fearful of the society’s negative acts. (Gentile et all, 2004)
A national survey in 1999 revealed that 62% parents of children ages ranging from 2-17 confessed their child being frightened by something they saw on TV.
Strengths and limitations
Surveys were conducted, strength is that research will have positive implications if steps taken to avoid exposure of media on young children. Our research limitation is that we have to rely on questionnaires for this study. Though every person who takes the survey we take consent to be truthful and honest, but still some people might not be serious in answering the questions.
The research we conducted brought out many views & issues concerning the media’s violent nature by parents & psychological experts. Many a times the results deduced by a survey are not 100% accurate due to the answers not being stated with honesty. Often parents hide their children’s problems so as to cast a positive & likeable image in front of others. Thus, giving false information & diluting the research.
Further investigation should be planned & executed to fully extract the true happenings. This can help in contriving the broadcast of media to promote positive points among its viewers. The studies should be devised with a broad view so as to cover all the aspects whether good or bad. Often the experts do not co-operate with the evaluators therefore the end results lack professional guidelines. Expert opinion is always required to cement the result of surveys & strengthen the evaluation.
The researches conducted in schools proved to be quite remarkable & helped in collecting physical & psychological health of the children. The information given was backed by the annual report cards & examination results of each student. More studies should be conducted in different level schools. It provides a beneficial lead in devising theories regarding the children.
Future directions for research
Further research is needed in this field and especially research must be conducted to study the effect of media on developmental psychology of children. Future research will reveal how violence in media is affecting children and the related frequency of occurrence of abnormal psychological disorders. This will help taking further steps to stop such media violence and avoid psychological problems.
The research conducted proves that moderate television viewing with parents check is rather favorable for the young children. The media can be used as an effective tool in teaching & developing sound habits in children through parental guidance & proper planning of the medium’s people. Parents can use the specific shows as guidelines to satisfy the child’s inquisition. Watching programs with good values & ethics on TV can help the children understand the right way to behave.
However the media is being used in a limited way, the variety of messages that can be incorporated through the medium is being ignored. Changes must be designed to use the medium in a finest way. The gaps left by this research & evaluation should be fulfilled by further researches that are extensively conducted.
Advertising &entertainment industries represent the culture & spirit of the respective country to the rest of the world & must not be used casually. Parents & teachers should come up with strategies to create a sense of understanding in the children from an early age. The parents should realize what effects the movies & content on TV are having on their children & try to minimize TV viewing at home level. Some ways that may be incorporated by parents to limit children’s revelation to violence are:
- Restricting & keeping a check on what their children view on TV
- Discussing the programs with older children or young adults to clear their minds of any confusion & help them in expressing their opinions.
- Start a family oriented time by going for picnics, organizing a special lunch or dinner.
- Allow the children to watch TV for a selected time period & only programs that are desirable for their viewing.
- Offer criticism on TV channels & sponsors for showing in appropriate programs or content so as to force them to use proper censorship.
The effects whether positive or negative concerning today’s media are out in the open. It is the duty of every individual to counter such issues & raise their voices to control them. Many researches & experiments are being conducted to realize the short-term & long-term effects of violent media. Feelings of hostility, revenge, anger sprout in a young mind & provoke him or her to retaliate. Many reasons that promote violence on media are present.
- Often the viewer & the broadcaster thinks the effect is too minute to make a difference in anyone’s mind, nevertheless children are affected by the smallest of acts without worrying about its positive or negative aspect.
- The media declaring that that there is no understanding of the definition of violence among the people & continue to showcase the explicit content. They further comprehend by saying they show what the people want to watch.
- Believing that violence shown on media is simply showcasing real life. This is mostly observed in news channels & movies, where gruesome details of murder & accidents are shown openly.
- Parents allow children to view violent content in the name of comedy, many well-liked shows illustrate this example such as the ever popular tom & jerry cartoon which shows both the characters beating or pummeling each other
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