The Controversial Issue of the Positive and Negative Influence and Effects of Violence in TV Shows on Crime in Society

Categories: Violence In The Media

Over the last few years, it has become obvious that violence in TV shows, movies and in other forms of media is a controversial issue and a public debate still rages. Due to the increasing of the violence crimes, Brandon Centerwall puts the blame on television, and believes, “if, hypothetically, television technology had never been developed, there would today be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults.” For the most part, television helps relay information and messages to the general audience; however, due to changing human needs, it has also become a form of entertainment, which includes the violence.

Because of mainstream society, increasing violence portrayed in the media is non-avoidable, and television violence not only reveals the violent images people see on television, but also represents the impact that violent actions have on the lives of people in the real world. However, some scholars still holding the opposite side of view and believe exposure to television violence will not increase aggressive effect on teenagers through scientific research.

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In Johnathan Freedman’s study, he states, “[p]eople’s intuitions and observations are sometimes wrong”, and believes teenagers will benefits from watching the violence actions on screen in order to recognize the harmful effects of applying those violent actions in the real life. Whereas, lacking of social experience makes it difficult for teenagers to control their impulses, and “less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, more fearful of the world around them, and more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others.

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”[1]  Therefore, according to teenagers’ mentally immature and sociably inexperienced, exposure to television violence will increases the aggressive effect, aggressive cognitions, and aggressive behavior.[2]

Historically, television was invented in late 19th century and quickly widespread. It only takes thirteen years acquiring fifty million users over the world,[3] and becomes the mainstream media in people’s daily lives. With the development of the technology, increasing of the TV programs and changing of media types not only enriches user experience and raises public awareness, but also influences audiences’ behaviors in real lives, and “some negative effect of media violence on teenagers in 1960s still remain strong today” (Dale Kunkel). During the Vietnam War, television was the medium that used to report the information of the War from Vietnamese government; however, it also “brought the ‘horror of war’ into people’s living rooms, inspiring revulsion and exhaustion” (Museum of Broadcast Communications). The increasing of the images of violence and suffering show on the screen, which would “raise the public fear of being victimized by violence”(Kunkel). As before, the violent actions still playing a lot in the television programs today. As the data shows in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, there is nearly a thousand of violent actions display on the screen per hour, which includes the violent acts on News and children programing. Those violent actions will not only make teenagers to realize the danger of social unrest, and also can lead to stress, anxiety and even depression.

However, there are some scholars holding the opposite views that believe increasing of the television violent actions will help to reduce the crime rates. In John Hartley’s book Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence, Hartley first points out that it is impossible to prevent teenagers from seeing violent actions on television, and believes excessive hyperbole will affect the authenticity of news in order to mislead people to believe watching violent actions have negative impact on teenagers. He states, “[m]any studies that were typically cited as showing that exposure to television violence increased aggression- what I call the causal hypothesis- did not show this effect and sometimes they even showed the opposite effect.”[4] He thinks the media tends to stretch the truth in order to increase social awareness. He used the example of a teenager, who carelessly fired his house, but the News reports the different way. The News describes the young teenagers as an arsonist and fakes up a story that this teenager like to play violent video games, which can be proved as he had an aggressive personality, in order to exaggerate the event and increases the public attention. Thus, he blames the media’s irresponsible actions and claims that the increase of the media violence does not cause an increase in aggression or crime. Aside the truth of the information, it is fair to say we cannot simply mentioned the violent video gamer would have an aggressive personality, instead, we should realize the negative influence when the teenager saw those violent actions on the media. According to Albert Bandura’s article, he agrees that the “increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts,”[5] and states, “less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, more fearful of the world around them, and more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others” (575). Due to “[t]eenagers’ abilities of planning, judgment, and inhibition will diminish, may not be fully mature until the mid 20s” (Lucy Wall), increasing number of violent actions seen on television, teenagers often learn those aggressive behaviors with ease due to their strong imitative ability and quickly apply those behaviors in their day-to-day lives. Therefore, watching violent actions on the screen will mislead them and make them believe things can be solved through violence.

Additionally, Freedman made another misinterpretation in his article that he believes decreasing of the Juvenile Violent Crime shows the increasing of the television violence does not have harmful effects on teenagers. As the results can be shown in Figure 1, the data from Crime in the United States Report shows the violent crime rate of all persons less than 18 years of age, includes the murder, forcible rape, and robbery and aggravated assault from 1995 to 2008. As the data shows, comparing the data in 2008 to the data in 1995, the total juvenile violent crime rate has decreased 36%, which conforms the Freedman’s perspective. However, the results cannot be so easily explained in this way. In objective view, the decreasing of the total violent crime is influenced by many factors, like the changes of government polices and education systems. Relatively, we cannot use it to prove the increasing of the television violence help to reduce the total violent crime in teenagers.

Other than Freedman’s perspective, in Ger Tillekens’s research, he provided more reliable evidences that show the “television violence is fully harmless”, and believes the sharp decline in crime among the large adult population has eclipsed the rising crime rate among the relatively small population of youths. He creates a causal model between “daily hours television”, “aggressive behavior” and “low family income”, and finds that the teenagers who watch more television time will behave more aggressive than the teenagers watch less television, especially in low income family.

As the graph shows at the point “[watching television] less than 1 hour”, the number of teenagers do not have aggressive behaviors is greater than the teenagers have aggressive behaviors; however, the increasing of the television time lead teenagers become more aggressive, and most teenagers who live in a low-income family would have more aggressive behaviors than the teenagers come from better financial quarters the teenagers after watching 3 hours or more television per day. Therefore, we can conclude that the watching more television times will lead to increase teenagers’ aggressive behaviors. Tillekens’s perspective is also supported by Dr. William Belson’s study that shows exposure to television violence lead to the “long-term effect”[6] on teenagers. In Belson’s study, he studies “ men’s lifetime rate of TV violence in young men between 12 and 17” and finds the men watching more violent TV will behavior more aggressive, and increase the risk of committing crimes.

Moreover, the violent actions on television would mislead adolescent cognition, and TV violence has contributed directly to rising crime, as evidenced by statistics showing a dramatic rise in copycat crimes.[7] In the most of films and video games, the violence is often rewarded instead of being punished. As the data shows in the National Television Violence Study in 1992, there are “73% of perpetrators on TV are unpunished.” Also, in some hero movies show the violent actions that heroes did to evils are encouraged, which make “today’s superhero like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity.”[8] For example, in the Marvel’s movie Iron Man, the metal suit provides Tony Stark (Iron Man) superpower, and makes him become a hero who used that destructive power to defend his enemies’ attack. Those violent actions will influence teenagers’ cognition and make them believe that being aggressive is one of good ways to protect themselves. Also the point that “heroes are rarely unpunished” will also mislead them to believe the violent actions did by “good people” will be justified and heroic. As well as in the cartoons, much cartoon violence used as comic effect would also have negative influence on teenagers. Instead of making fun, some of the actions in the cartoon like it is okay for the people to be smacked in the head with a hammer will also mislead teenagers’ cognition and let them believe those violent actions carry no risk for harm.

Albert Bandura’s perspective based on social learning theory also shows the violent actions that teenagers see on screen will have negative influence on teenagers. He used the results of comparing with aggressive affect, aggressive cognition and aggressive behavior when teenagers play the video games shown in figure 3, and finds that “violence rewarded will led to the most aggression.”

As the graph shows, the teenagers who play the video games which contains the violence rewarded will increase their aggressive affect, aggressive cognition, and aggressive behavior in the real lives, and the game contains violence punished will only increased aggressive affect on teenagers; however, the game contains nonviolent did not have negative influence on teenagers. Therefore, The results also proved that the increasing of the violent actions on media brings harmful effect on teenagers, especially the media contains violent rewarded.

Due to teenagers have strong mimetic ability, scenes of violence on screen often lead to dangerous imitation since they are lacking of social experience. According to teenagers cannot tell invented story from facts, and the curiosity will force them to learn and apply violent behaviors in their real lives, which may also increase the juvenile crime rate. The problem now is how should society avoid harmful effects on teenagers? [9] In Anderson and Douglas’s research, they find that nearly 75% of parents believe that watching a lot of television programs will make their children become more aggressive than children who do not watch TV[10]. Furthermore, only 13% of parents believe that watching violent actions on TV will not have negative effect on their children[11]. This further exposes the social views and attitudes surrounding television violence. Anderson and Douglas criticize the parents who have fewer restrictions on their children in regards to watching violent television programs. Thus, teenagers’ aggressive behavior can also be linked to differing parenting styles and living environments.

Because of the exposure to violent media makes teenagers more violent, in order to avoid the negative effect of the media violence, one of the best ways is leaving them no chances to be exposed to violence on media. TV ratings and the ESRB ratings are the two major systems that can be used to limit teenagers over expose to violent programs and games, which also brings obvious effects on teenagers. However, teenagers still have chance to touch those violent actions on media “as long as they elude parental supervision” (Barr). Since youths cannot avoid contact with the violence, the only way is to raise public awareness of the problem. Therefore, parents should pay more attention on family education, and let their children know the harmful effects of applying those violent actions that children learned from the screens, further strengthen their idea of rule by law, and enhance their legal awareness.

In conclusion, with the development of the information age, the media and the entertainment union already and will change people’s life style. However, the media are more powerful than we realize due to the increasing number of violent actions seen on television that will have negative influence on teenager’s cognition and behavior. Teenagers often learn those aggressive behaviors with ease due to their strong imitative ability and quickly apply those behaviors in their day-to-day lives. In order to avoid those negative impaction, parents should pay more attention to the family education, and teach their children to realize applying the violent behaviors they have seen on-screen will cause harmful effects on society, like David Walsh states in NIMF, “if parent are responsible for caring for their children, then our definition of caring has to keep pace with a changing media world” (8).

Works Cited

  1. Anderson, Craig A., and Douglas A. Gentile. “Media Violence, Aggression, and Public Policy.” Beyond Common Sense (2007): 281-300. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.
  2. Amaral, Richard. “Copycat Crimes: Why Do They Happen? – Psychology For Growth.” Psychology For Growth. N.p., 04 July 2013. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
  3. Bandura, Albert. “Transmission of Aggression through Imitation of Aggressive Models.” Abnormal and Social Psychology 63 (1961): 575-82. Web. 14 July 2015.
  4. Barr, Stephen. “Computer Violence: Are Your Kids At Risk Author: Stephen Barr.” Nature, Nurture, and Video Games. N.p., 09 Jan. 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
  5. Belson, William A. Television Violence and the Adolescent Boy. Farnborough, Hants.: Saxon House, 1978. Print.
  6. Freedman, Jonathan L. Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence. Toronto: U of Toronto, 2002. Print.
  7. Hartley, John. “From Republic of Letters to Television Republic? Citizen Readers in the Era of Broadcast Television.” Television after TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition. Ed. Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. 386-417. Print.
  8. Kunkel, Dale. “The Effects of Television Violence on Children: Hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.” APA. N.p., 26 June 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
  9. Tillekens, Ger. “Television Violence Is Fully Harmless.” Soundscapes. N.p., Apr. 2002. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
  10. Wallis, Lucy. “Is 25 the new cut-off point for adulthood?” BBC News. 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

Cite this page

The Controversial Issue of the Positive and Negative Influence and Effects of Violence in TV Shows on Crime in Society. (2021, Sep 28). Retrieved from

The Controversial Issue of the Positive and Negative Influence and Effects of Violence in TV Shows on Crime in Society

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