Violence and Media

The effects of Media violence can cause physical aggression to the people, especially the youth. Media violence is described as the portrayal of physical action that hurts or kills. It might draw thoughts that lead one to believe that aggressive behavior might be attained in certain situations and might bring certain benefits. Violent entertainment is not only gained through television shows, but also in music lyrics and videos, commercials, video games, and movies.

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Most people are into violent movies, especially the adults.

There are three reasons why people are attracted to violent entertainment. First, violent entertainment may hold an interest for some individuals. Second, people may experience post viewing enjoyment from viewing events, characters, and themes that appear in violent contexts. Lastly, violent media may contain themes that the audience may enjoy.

Teenagers who become violent adults are those who are aggressive and involved in some forms of antisocial behavior. There were two different reasons on the effects of media violence on aggressive behavior.

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First, the harmful effects of media violence are probably learned by the individual through multiple exposures. Second, short-term effects are highly linked to the imitation of violent visual images.

People witness, read, or hear of an event through the mass media. There are many effects of media violence that not all people know of. These effects can damage a human being’s thinking, especially a child’s.

I. Violent messages in the media

Violence in the media occurs in music videos, television shows, video games, and movies. Entertainment media contains a stabilized amount of violence. Good drama revolves around conflict, and violence is one of the most common consequences of conflict.

A study made by Armstrong in 2001 analyzed 490 gangsta rap songs released between 1987 and 1993. The results show that 22 percent are comprised of violent lyrics. Eminem’s top-selling album in 2000, named Marshall Mathers LP was reported to have contained violent lyrics in eleven out of the fourteen songs in the album. Furthermore, research on music videos was more focused on the images rather than the lyrics.

A study was conducted by Smith and Boyson in 2002 that analyzed 1,962 videos that were drawn randomly from three channels, namely BET, MTV, and VH-1. The results showed that only 15 percent of the videos featured physical aggression. However, rap (29 percent) and heavy metal (27 percent) were more likely than other genres (rock, 12 percent; rhythm and blues, 9 percent; adult contemporary, 7 percent) to contain violence. In conlusion, rap or hiphop is usually more violent than other music genres.

Furthermore, there were a series of five experiments reported recently by Anderson, Carnagey, and Eubanks (2003) about the effects of music lyrics on mass media violence. In their studies, there were seven aggressive songs by seven artists, and eight nonviolent songs by seven artists, utilized to be certain that the results were not because of one or two specific songs, artists, or genres.

The experimental studies propose that comprehensible violent lyrics can increase the violent thinking and affect the youth, but there were no published studies of the effects aggressive violent lyrics without video or the violent music videos.

In the study of children growing up, Huesmann et al. (2003), there were differences in the types of violence affiliated with early childhood exposure to media violence. Indirect aggression in children increases, because of early exposure to violence. An example of this is telling lies to get others in trouble and taking other people’s things because of anger.

George Gerbner found out that prime-time TV contains a large amount of violence. Children’s shows contain more violence than any other type of programming. The shows designed for kids have about 32 violent acts per hour. In relation, American Psychological Association (APA) reported that in the course of a lifetime, an average child will view more than 8000 murders and over 10000 acts of TV violence. Nearly 60 percent of all television programming contains an amount of violence. From the ages of 3 to 16, children spent more time in front of the television set than they spent in school.

Heavy television and media use leads people to identify reality as consistent with the portrayals they see on television.

Furthermore, annual reports of television status done by Gerbner and his colleagues were consistent over time. Approximately, 70 percent of primetime programs contained some violence. 94 percent of children’s shows contained violence. In other words, programs targeted to young viewers have the most violent content. Another study done by the National Television Violence Study (NVTS), documented that 69 percent of children’s programs contained more violence than that of non children’s programs, which only contained 57 percent of violence.

Approximately 100 percent of slapstick programs like Road Runner and Bugs Bunny contained violence, and almost all of superhero programs which contained only 57 percent.

Advertising has in its dynamics no motivation to seek the development of the individual or to convey qualities of social usefulness. It has no social goals and no social responsibility for its influence will affect (According to Potter). According to the report of the Federal Trade Commission, the average child sees 20,000 commercials a year, or about 3 hours of TV advertising a week. Many children regard advertising as just another form of programming and do not tell the difference between programs and ads.

In an advertisement for Domino’s Pizza, they invented a cartoon character named Noid. He finds ways to make pizza cold before people could eat it. Domino’s Pizza boasts of their fast delivery and special packing method that guaranteed the delivery of hot pizza. Their ad slogan was: One could avoid the Noid by ordering from Domino’s. One thing they didn’t know is that there was a man named Mr. Noid, he was a troubled person and he didn’t find yet find out what TV was all about. When Mr. Noid saw the pizza commercial that told the whole world to avoid the Noid, he was furios. The next thing people knew is that a man whose last name is Noid, held hostage the customers and employees at one of the Domino’s Pizza stores. He demanded to discontinue the avoid the Noid commercial.

Moreover, fictional violence is escalated day after day, program after program. Television is full of violence and it has not changed since the early 1970s. TV violence is a cause of aggressiveness, not the cause of aggressiveness.

Movies on the other hand are quite violent compared to other types of media content. According to the NTVS, approximately 90 percent of movies contain more violence whereas drama series only contain 70 percent, 35 percent of comedy series, and 35 percent of reality series. A study made by Yokota and Thompson in 2000 examined G-rated (General-rated) films showed between 1937 and 1999. The results showed that 74 movies at least contained one act of violence. Youths watching aggressive scenes display more violent behavior, violent thoughts, or violent emotions than others (Anderson, Berkowitz, Donnerstein, Huesmann, Johnson, Linz, Malamuth & Wartella).

Bjorkqvist (1985) let a 5 year old and a 6 year old Finnish child to watch either a violent or nonviolent films. Conversely with the children who had watched the nonviolent films, those who had viewed the violent film were assessed much higher on physical assault (hitting other children, wrestling, etc), as well as other types of violence. The exposure to media violence can cause to increase physical assaults who watched violent movies.

To summarize, movies frequently feature aggression, and there is some evidence that they are becoming more violent over time. Movies feature more violence than television programs do. Even comedy and horror films contain violence. Many theatrically released movies target male adolescents, and, therefore are highly likely to contain action, adventure, and violence.

Over the years, graphics have evolved. It has become so advanced that it is almost hard to tell whether a person on the screen is an animated image or a real human character. The game characters move in ways that are close to human movement. Many of the games seem to be more than exercises in virtual killing.

The media have trained children to associate violence and killing with delight. Video games that require a player to shoot a gun and react reflexively with the shooting response are teaching the entire generation of children to associate shooting with pleasure. Violent video games are transforming young people into homemade sociopaths who kill reflexively. Some teenagers are being influenced by video games, because they can’t separate the fiction they see on TV from the reality. Furthermore, playing aggressive video games can have short-term negative effects on the game-player’s emotional state.

The outcome the studies showed that playing violent games increased the adolescent’s violent behavior. Pinching, kicking, hitting is considered as physical violence between boys who had just played either a nonviolent or violent video game.

The rate of violence per minute is much higher in video games than in most violent TV programs or movies. For instance, Funk and Buchman (1996) found no difference in gender in overall preference for violent video games because girls and boys preferred violence. Girls chose the fantasy violence, whereas the boys chose the human violence. There was also a report of Cantor (1998) that males were more affiliated to justice restoring violent programming like Batman than females, but both was equally attracted to comedic violence.

In conclusion, violence is more persuasive in video games (68 percent) than on television (60 percent), it is commonly found in movies (90 percent), and rarely seen in music videos (15 percent). However, certain genres in each medium are more aggressive in nature. These are children’s cartoons, animated movies, rap or hiphop music, and Teen and Mature-rated video games. Many of these genres are targeted to the youth.

II. Factors that contribute to the effects of media violence

Gerbner has noted that portrayals of violence on TV are not violence, but just mere violent messages. When violence is portrayed by an attractive character, it is more likely to be learned and imitated, when violence appears to be condoned, when it is realistic, when it is rewarded, and when it results in giving small consequences to the victim.

Both males and females are influences by media violence, although the effects may be stronger for males (Paik & Comstock, 1994). Children who had seen more TV violence can be adults who commit more serious crimes, but not all children child who watched large amounts of violence on TV end up getting involved in a crime. Rowell Huesmann pointed out:

Aggressive habits seem to be learned in early life, and once established, are resistant to change and predictive of serious adult antisocial behavior. If a child’s observation of media violence promotes the learning of aggressive habits, it can have harmful lifelong consequences. Consistent with this theory, early television habits are in fact correlated with adult criminality. (Sparks, “Effects of media violence” 89)

Furthermore, the amount of TV violence children viewed enabled researchers to account for less than 10 percent of the crimes committed by children as they matured over the 22-year period.

Children must really see violent content in order to influence their behavior. Angry people and media violence is a volatile mix. If angry people always watch violence on TV, then they are more likely to act aggressively. Children and teenagers with aggressive personality may search for violent content because it helps them to justify their behaviors. People live in a world in which there is more violence than there might be without mass media. People are less trusting of their neighbors and more accepting of violence in their core.

Children from middle-to-upper socioeconomic status (SES) watch less TV violence than those children from households of a lower SES. The more television violence a person watches, the more that person can become aggressive. Parents who are violent in the home are encouraging and aggressive behaviors for their children. The risk of a child behaving aggressively can be heightened especially if there is violence in the home (Bauer et al, 2006). Moreover, a national study of more than 1000 children aged 6 to 12 found that violent television viewing and violent electronic game playing are associated to family conflict (Vanderwater, Lee, & Shim, 2005).

In addition, children who had troubled relationships with their parents and children who were classified as aggressive were more likely to turn to television for fantasy. TV violence can induce an aggressive effect only for the most susceptible individuals like boys from disadvantaged homes. Perhaps there was something else about the families of the children that predisposed them to watch either violent or non-violent programs at an early age. This may lead the children to either a life of crime or a life of civic responsibility. Moreover, children’s early TV viewing very likely did contribute to the criminal activity later in life.

III. Media violence and aggression

Early experiments were criticized for applying fabricated measures of aggression, for setting up situations in which adult models seem to condone aggression. Since then, field experiments have been conducted in more naturalistic settings and have found that watching television can increase the children’s real-life aggression against peers in social situations like playgrounds (Friedrich & Stein, 1973). TV shows like cartoons and non-animated programs can stimulate youth aggression at once after viewing, and that this effect can happen after exposure to even a single episode of a violent television show (Boyatzis, Matillo, & Nesbitt, 1973).

Moreover, a concern about copycat violence focuses on the effects of televised wrestling events. Lionel Tate, a 13-year old boy, was convicted in 2001 for killing a 6-year old girl by lifting her in the air and dropping her onto the table. If a child watched a person on TV who seemed very appealing and who received rewards for acting aggressively, then the child will more likely follow the character’s behavior. On the other hand, if a child saw a character who received punishment for acting aggressively, then the child might abstain from showing any aggressive actions in real life.

There is a tendency for children who watched higher levels of TV violence to also have a higher score on the ratings of aggressive behavior. There are certain things about TV violence and children that need to be understood. First, viewing TV violence could cause children to act more aggressively, particularly if the violent characters were appealing and receive awards for their actions. Second, the effects appeared most strongly for boys, not for girls. Boys turn out to be more sensitive to the effects of media violence. Lastly, the presence of appealing characters who receive awards for acting aggressively seems to advocate more aggressive behavior in children.

Video games have produced a controversy in the public arena after the Killings at Columbine High School in Colorado. This was done by two teenagers that attacked their classmates and teachers. They soon found out that the two teenagers were fond of playing Doom. In relation, a study was made back in 1988. It reported that children who played Jungle Hunt, a game involving a character who would jump from one vine to another in such a way that he would not fall, tended to play with a jungle swing toy. On the other hand, those who played Karateka, a game involving a protagonist who was controlled by the player and had a mission to hit, kick, and kill enough villains to save a damsel in distress, tended to play in an aggressive way with the karate bobo doll.

Rod Serling’s movie, The Doomsday Flight (1966), was about a jet plane which took off and established its flight path, a report then came in that the plane was carrying an altitude bomb. A terrorist had set the bomb to explode if the plane descended below 5,000 feet. In the end, the plane managed to land in Denver, which was barely 5,000 feet above sea level. The plan averted disaster and everyone lived happily ever after. Well not everyone, because even before the movie ended a bomb threat was phoned to one of the major airlines. Four more threats were phoned in during the next day, and eight more were reported by the weekend. In some cases the callers threatened to use exactly the same kind of altitude bomb motive depicted in the movie. Fortunately, none of these threats turned out to be real. The callers had been the victims of the copycat phenomenon, where people imitate the exact behaviors that they see depicted in the media. When these behaviors are violent or illegal, this becomes a significant social problem.

Another example of the copycat phenomenon is when The Burning Bed, a movie in 1984, starred Farrah Fawcett Majors as a battered wife who felt so desperately trapped by an abusive husband that she soaked her husband’s bed with gasoline while he slept.

Then, she set the bed and her husband ablaze. The film triggered some copycat consequences. Days after the movie was aired, several women around America who were victims of abuse decided to copy the behavior of the main character. They murdered their husbands by dousing the beds of their husbands with gasoline and setting it on fire.

Furthermore, children who were exposed early to television violence predicted subsequent adult aggression (Huesmann, 1986). It has been associated with an increased risk of adult aggression, even after for controlling family income, childhood neglect, psychiatric disorders, neighborhood violence, and parental education. An illustration by Ostrov, Gentile, and Crick (2006) asked 60 parents about their preschooler’s exposure to television programs, movies, and videogames over a two-year period. For boys, exposure to violent media predicted an increase in observed physical, verbal, and relational aggression four months later. For girls, violent media exposure was associated with a subsequent increase in verbal aggression only.


The harmful effects of media violence bring psychological impact to the minds of the youth especially in today’s generation. They do not know that these things can greatly affect their attitude and behavior as a person which might be a result of violence. They try to imitate what they see and what they hear from televisions, music lyrics or videos, movies, and video games, because of their curiosity.

Most scientists agreed that parents can be a strong force in reducing such media violence. They should let their children share their thoughts and fears about killings or death. Parents should also know the main risk factors of media violence to the youth and familiarize the programs and video games their children watched and played. They should avoid exposing their children to too much video games and television so that it would it would reduce violent behavior of their children.

No matter how strong the tendency to think otherwise, it is important to know that content does not equal to the effect. Media violence is certainly not the sole cause or even the most important contributor to youth aggression. Parents can actually reduce the risks associated with media violence by reducing exposure to television and videogames.

Cite this page

Violence and Media. (2019, Aug 19). Retrieved from

Violence and Media
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