Affect Children? Essay, Research Paper
How and why does mass media violence affect children?
Within a span of a few short years, violent television and video games have increased in popularity dramatically. Yet, the voices of parent s concerned about their affects have also grown louder. In today s society, an average of five or six violent incidents occur every hour on daytime television. And what about cartoons, the most watched shows by children? Cartoon programming contains the most violence, portraying about eighteen acts of aggression per hour. Recent studies suggest that by the time a child is twelve years old, the average child will have witnessed a hundred thousand acts of violence on television. But, not only is violence prevalent in television, video games are becoming increasingly violent, with such titles as; Mortal Kombat , Quake , and Tekken . However, the main question on the minds of parents as well as child psychologists is what sort of affect do watching violent television and playing violent video games have on children. One major social psychologist states plainly that, evidence suggests that violence on television is potentially dangerous, in that it serves as a model for behavior especially for children (Aronson, 1995, p.265) Differing conclusions abound, another psychologist contradicts this saying, general consensus among social scientists that television violence increases the propensity to real-life aggression among some viewers, and yet paradoxically, there is presently little evidence indicating that (Diener & DeFour, 1978). How is it possible that there is such a large difference in the findings of qualified professionals performing valid scientific studies? This paper will attempt to examine the affairs and issues that make the relationship between mass media and violence so difficult.
There are four major theories held by psychologists about media violence and aggression: arousal, social learning, disinhibition, and catharsis. The first, arousal, promoted by P. H. Tannebaum, holds that exposure to television violence increases aggression because violence increases excitation, or arouses viewers. Increased aggression follows when it is appropriate as a response, which is almost always the case in television-and-aggression experiments. (Tannebaum & Zillman, 1975) Second, the social learning violence theory, developed by Bandura, proposed that behaviors are learned by observing others. Bandura claims that children who watch television acquire behaviors observed from television programs, What has been clearly demonstrated is that children can acquire aggressive ways of behaving from television and will exhibit these aggressive responses in play behavior. (Bandura, 1973) Third, the disinhibition hypothesis, which suggests that television violence can lead to increased violent behavior because it weakens inhibitions against such behavior, the so-called de-sensitizing response. Fourth, and last, the aggression reduction hypothesis (catharsis), argued by Feshbach, states that under specific conditions exposure to television and other media violence will reduce subsequent aggression. One such condition is said to occur when viewers are deficient in the ability to invent aggressive fantasies, the entertainment of which Feshbach hypothesizes is helpful in self-control of aggressive impulses. Television violence, it is argued, supplies material for such fantasies, thus reducing aggressive behavior. (Comstock & Lidsey, 1975, p. 27-28) Sigmund Freud agreed with this idea, and said Unless people were allowed to express themselves aggressively, the aggressive energy would be dammed up, pressure would build, and the aggressive energy would seek an outlet, either exploding into acts of extreme violence or manifesting itself as symptoms of mental illness but there is no direct evidence for this conclusion. (Aronson, 1995, p. 258) Unfortunately, testing these theories have met with enormous challenge, how to directly relate observing violence to violent behavior. The difficulties lie in setting up laboratory controls against bias due to socio-economic strata, nature and complexity of social organization, social and cultural characteristics, regional characteristics, and value systems. John E. Ivy, Jr., director of the division of research interpretation of the North Carolina Institute for Research in Social Science, claims that, The psychologist and social psychologist have been able to simulate social situations in the laboratories. However, they have not yet had enough experience in testing hypotheses, and developing theory, growing out of studies of real life situation. (Schramm, p. 144) Numerous experts, despite the lack of evidence for this view and its basis in ancient hypothesis, support catharsis. Yet, Aronson contends, In a classic series of experiments, Albert Bandura and his associate demonstrated that watching violence on television also failed to yield cathartic effects. Quite the contrary; simply seeing another person behave aggressively can increase the aggressive behavior of young children. (Aronson, 1995, p. 265)
Though television may have replaced film and radio in audience size, children today may be more influenced by video games in arcades and computer games at home. There, children become active participants as opposed to simply being viewers. Which is more damaging, watching any existing television show or having a child play Mortal Kombat and rip out a simulated opponent s heart or spinal cord? Marketed to youngsters, through their violent content, there is no doubt that games like these are extremely popular. Revenues for MK-II (Mortal Kombat II) have soared past the four hundred million dollar mark (New Media, 1995). Yet, studies have been inconclusive when comparing the affects of video game violence on children to that of violent television. Though, intuitively, the degree of impact from video game violence would be larger than that of simply watching television violence because the children are actively involved in the violent act.
What about cultural differences? Japan is supposed to have more sex and violence on television, comic books, and video games, yet has a considerably far lower rate of rape, homicide, and gun related crimes in general than the U.S (http://i2i.org/SuptDocs/Crime/Japanese_Gun_Control) Thus, it is possible we can postulate that the effect of media on aggression, if it even exists, is highly prone to cultural conditioning.
Finally, the question of mass media s impact on children seems to point toward no direct conclusion. There are bound regions of concurrence by the psychology field, and equally broad areas of disagreement, uncertainty, and doubt. The most points of agreement lie in the possibility of violent media boosting the likely hood of violent behavior in children. Most confusion surrounds whether or not a child would have expressed violent behavior without participating in violent media, or if a child who was not normally violent would increase expression of violent behavior simply due to watching violent television or playing graphically violent video games. Another point of contention is the idea of catharsis, and its role, if any, in the prevention of propensity toward violent behavior. With all that said, still seven percent of all cases of death of children ages 5-14 are homicides. With incidences of violence at schools around the country, such as Jonesboro and Columbine, the question is raised, if television and video games are not to blame, then what is causing the increase of violent behavior in children? There is a general consensus that a child s moral behavior stems from a combination of all factors; innate, environmental, and conditioned; television and video games are just possible factors.