Violence In The Media: Effects On Society Essay, Research Paper
Violent behavior of individuals may be linked to media violence. There are a number of different ways that people can be influenced by media violence. Who will be affected, by what material, and in what way is difficult to determine. Media violence does not only include television and movies, but local news as well. There are ways to prevent media violence from corrupting one’s own behavior. It is the responsibility of the public to voice their opinions and speak out against television violence.
There are several studies that prove that violence in the media has a direct influence on the behavior of those that are subjected to it. Gerbner and Gross found that violent acts occur on American television at a rate of five acts per prime-time hour and eighteen acts per weekend daytime hour. These statistics have not changed much since 1981 (Huesmann, Eron, and Legerspetz). There are a greater number of television programs available in Canada and the United States. Children can watch violence at almost any time of day if they wanted to.
Many children act out or play games that they see on TV. An example of this is WWF Wrestling. Children see this type of violence and believe that it is an acceptable and fun thing to do. Children soon begin to act out towards other children as well as towards animals. They fight instead of play at recess. And if no one stops his or her erratic behavior it doesn’t take long before the media turns a good kid into a bad one.
In 1985, the American Psychological Association (APA) took the official position that television violence can cause aggressive behavior (Zuckerman, 1996). They did this because of continuous behavioral effects demonstrated by patients that could be linked to film and television. What people were watching on TV was corrupting the way people looked at themselves. Many people were receiving treatment for negative feelings towards their bodies and their love lives. Patients were feeling that if their lives weren’t as great as the lives of the people on TV there must be something wrong with them. As well psychologists were seeing an increase in atrocious violent acts by patients. The same acts that had been portrayed in recent movies or television programs.
Many people allow the media to influence their lives. It is not necessarily a bad thing if people use the media to better their lives. When violence is imitated it causes reason for concern. Many people are petitioning to have a stronger control over the context in which the violence is portrayed; the age of the viewer; and the participant’s ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality, and justified or unjustified use of force.
A famous example of this in Canadian history is the petition set forth in November 1992 by then thirteen year old Virginie Lariviere. This was shortly after the rape and murder of her young sister. Virginie Larivi?re presented then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney with a 1.3-million-signature petition. Larivi?re was convinced that media violence had played a role in her sister’s death, and her petition demanded legislation to ban gratuitous violence on television (Vivian Maurin, 292).
She decided something needed to be done when she was attending the funeral of her 11-year-old sister Marie-Eve Larivi?re. Marie-Eve had been robbed of $6, then raped and finally strangled. “I kept asking myself why anyone would want to do that to Marie-Eve, and it suddenly occurred to me that it might well be the result of all the violence that my sister and I used to watch on television.” Larivi?re thought there might be something wrong with her reaction, but she decided that something needed to be done. Eight months later, in mid-November, Virginie’s petition was in the office of the Prime Minister (www.media-awareness.ca, #2).
Media violence can lead to aggressive behavior in children. There have been over 1,000 studies performed that can confirm this. An average Canadian child will have been subjected to more that 12,000 acts of violence through media by the time they reach the age of twelve (Vivian & Maurin, 292). By age eighteen, the average American child will have viewed about 200,000 acts of violence on television alone (Media Violence, 53).
The level of violence during Saturday morning cartoons is higher than the level of violence during prime time. There are three to five violent acts per hour in prime time, versus twenty to twenty-five acts per hour on Saturday morning. Media violence is especially damaging to young children (under age eight) because they cannot easily tell the difference between real life and fantasy (Pomeroy, 15). Violent images on television and in movies may seem real to young children. Viewing these images can traumatize them.
Parents can help children develop media literacy skills by helping children distinguish between fantasy and reality (pomeroy). Teaching children that real-life violence has consequences is very important. Discussing what those consequences may be is a good way to deter the child from recreating actions that they saw on TV.
Distinguishing between fantasy and reality is not only difficult for young children but it can be difficult for older people too. The best example of this occurred on April 20, 1999, two troubled teens walked into Columbine High School with murder on their minds and changed the lives of the students and teachers at that school forever. The shots were heard around the world thanks to the media. The two boys Eric Harris (eighteen) and Dylan Klebold (seventeen) liked the movies Reservoir Dogs, From Dusk till Dawn, Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers; movies with very violent themes. In their rampage and letters to their families and even on Harris’ own web site the boys quoted these movies. They were heard saying that blowing their classmates away was almost as fun as Doom and Quake. Two very violent and very popular video games (gurlpages.com).
Copycat Rampages began almost immediately. It was argued that movies and media violence caused these two boys to lash out at the world. The reasons behind the copycat murders were never linked to anything other than people agreeing with Harris and Klebold’s ideology. It seems the news media is always eager to jump to conclusions that put blame on others. When the blame falls on the news they are very quick to retreat.
If the media coverage had not been so large and so compelling to watch, there is no question that some of the people killed by copycats in the Columbine aftermath would still be alive today. The press had a field day with this tragedy, blaming TV and Movies all the while showing more violence than the films that were being put on trial. Many people that never would have had access to these movies had access to the news. Creating more terror and destruction than Harris and Klebold could have ever created on their own.
Taber, Alberta was Harris and Klebold’s first copycat that happened in Canada one week after the infamous Denver shootings. One victim died and the other suffered life threatening injuries following the noontime shooting at W.R. Myers High School in Taber. The suspect, who was not identified because of his age, was wearing a blue trench coat, which he used to conceal a .22 caliber, sawed-off rifle (news.bbc.co.uk).
Media violence affects children in many different ways. Some claim that, media violence causes increasing aggressiveness and anti-social behavior. The public, especially the older generations are becoming increasingly terrified of becoming victims of random acts of violence. This is because the older generations watch the most TV (Eisler, Oct 30,2000). The elderly are portrayed by television as weak and more susceptible to violence. This creates many unwarranted fears for the elderly.
The media seems to be making people less sensitive to violence and to the victims of violence. The increasing appetite for more violence in entertainment creates a parallel that crosses the boundaries into real life. Media violence often fails to show the consequences of violence. This is especially true of cartoons, toy commercials and music videos. As a result, children learn that there are few if, any repercussions for committing a violent act.
Extensive viewing of television violence by children can cause greater aggressiveness. Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Children, who watch programs or movies, in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see. The impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child’s behavior or may surface years later. Some young people can be affected by media violence, even when the family atmosphere shows no tendency toward violence. This does not mean that violence on television is the only source for aggressive or violent behavior, but it is a significant contributor.
The way that violence effects people through media is not only isolated to television, movies, and music. Three other very big ways that media violence can effect people are, through video games, the Internet, and the News. It does not matter whether the violence being received is in news programs or if it is fantasy violence in fictional programs. There was recently a unanimous ruling that news was exempt from TV ratings. This decision was a big mistake. To exempt news programming from the TV ratings is sending the message that if violence is real its okay. If television ratings are put in place to try to exempt children from violence and sex, then news should have ratings as well. There is just as much if not more, violence and sex on the news as anywhere else.
Television, movies and news are destroying societal values and are creating rifts between the public (Lang, 64). Some people want more control over what is available to the public through media. Others believe in the right to freedom of choice. They believe that it is the responsibility of parents to control what is being viewed by children that have not yet learned how to distinguish right from wrong. There should be a way to make both sides happy. Perhaps it is the responsibility of the Cable Company’s to put in parental controls on all TV’s. This would create a situation where parents could at least control what they do not want their children to see. At the same time it would allow the people that do not agree with regulating TV to watch any programming that they wish.
Parents can take many precautions to reduce the effect media violence has on their children. Monitoring the programs children watch and restricting children’s viewing of violent programs is a good place to start. A parent can monitor the music videos and films children watch, as well as the music children listen to, for violent themes. Limiting the amount of television a child watches, to one or two hours a day is also helpful to limit the amount of violence they absorb.
Teaching children alternatives to violence is a good way to help dull the effects violent media may have. Watching TV with them as a family and discussing what they just saw after the program is over is a positive way to ensure that they are not being negatively influenced. Ask children to think about what would happen in real life if the same type of violent act were committed. Find out if the child realizes that someone could die or go to jail. Ask the child if anyone would be sad. Find out if they think the violence would solve or create problems. Asking children how they feel after watching a violent TV show, movie, or music video is a good way to ensure that they are not receiving a false sense of reality from the media. The responsibility a parent has to a child and to society is very large.
Children need to grow up with a healthy view of life that can only be gained through explanations of the falsehoods created by the media. People need not feel like second rate citizens if they do not measure up to the media’s expectations. Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. It should be the goal of parents and society in general to ensure that children grow up with healthy views of the world.
It is the public’s responsibility to ensure that children are safe by speaking out against television violence. A person demonstrating violent behavior may in some way be linked to media violence. There are many ways that media can influence people. It is difficult to determine who will be affected, by what materials, and in what ways. Media violence exists in the news, television and movies, as well as many other places. Parents must prevent media violence from corrupting the behavior of children. Media violence can have negative effects on children and society and must be dealt with in a way that does not infringe on the rights of the individual.
- Huesmann L. Rowell. Leonard D. Eron, Kirsti Legerspetz, IntervenA’ng
Variables in the TV Violence-Aggression Relation: Evidence From
Two Countries, Developmental Psychology, Vol. 20, No.5, 1984, pg.
- Zuckerman, Diana M., Ph.D., Media Violence, Gun Control, and Public
P li@c , American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 66, 1996, pg.378- 388.
- Media Violence, AAP Committee on Communications. in Pediatrics,
Vol. 95, No. 6, June 1995.
- Vivian, John, Peter J. Maurin. The Media of Mass Communication: 2d Canadian Edition. Scarborough, Ont.: Allyn and Bacon Canada, 2000.
- Lang, Annie. Measuring Psychological responses to media. Hillsdale, N.J.:Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, publishers, 1994.
- Pomeroy, Dave. Video Violence and Values. New York, N.Y.:
Friendship Press, 1990.
- l.= http://www.media-awareness.ca/eng/issues/violence/viostory.htm
- 2.= http://www.media-awareness.ca/eng/issues/violence/resource/ articles/child.htm
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/world/americas/newsid-331000/33189 9.stm
- Eisler, Lauren D. The Sociology of Mass Media in Canada: 244.3.
Saskatoon, Sk. University of Saskatchewan, Term 1,2000/2001.