Media Violence Essay, Research Paper
Our Children are Violent:
Is the Media Really to Blame?
Why are children our so violent? What has changed so much over the years to make today s children so angry, so aggressive? Many people attribute the increase in violent youth to the increase of violence in the media. If people are fed a daily diet of murder, crime and violence, many come to believe that sort of thing is normal (Foegen). There is a common belief that television, films, video games, and even the nightly news are to blame for making children believe that violence is not only acceptable, but a necessary way of solving conflict. Is the media to blame for this rise in violent behavior? It is possible that the media is being used as a scapegoat for the failing family unit which may be a more truthful cause of this behavior.
There is no mistaking that television has become a household staple, much like bread or milk. The television, once a source of family entertainment, has become a babysitter, and even a parental figure in some homes. The average seventh grader watches about four hours of television per day, and 60 percent of those shows contain some violence (Violence and the Media 267). This means that when a child comes home from school, he or she may spend most of the remaining day watching violent acts. It has also been noted that on average, a child receives more one-on-one communication from television than from both teachers and parents combined (Grossman). With all of this television watching, it should not be surprising that by the time an American child turns 18, he or she will have watched 200,000 violent acts, and 16,000 simulated murders on television (Violence and the Media 267). While it is safe to say that witnessing all of these violent acts has the ability to desensitize viewers, it does not mean that those viewers will be more violent than people who do not watch television.
One popular example of violent television is professional wrestling. Many parents have chastised wrestling for encouraging violence and portraying it as glamorous. There is a concern that preteen and teenage boys will look to wrestling as an example of what a man should be, and this is a valid point. Teens and preteens are at the age when they begin to create identities for themselves. By watching wrestlers receive accolades and praise for engaging in acts of violence, children in turn could believe that this is an appropriate way to gain acceptance in society (Kantrowitz 52).
Finger pointing does not stop at fictional television shows. It also leads in the direction of television news programs. The evening news that many people watch each night is not regularly seen as a contributor to the violent behavior of young people. While news programs think that they are doing their jobs by providing continuous coverage of violent tragedies such as Columbine, what they do not realize is that young people see the fame that these real life killers receive as a way of not only getting even with those who have wronged them, but of achieving some sort of notoriety in the process. Why do we rarely see reports of teenage suicides on the news? In the 1970 s, news coverage of local adolescent suicides was shown to lead to cluster suicides , or copycat suicides by teenagers (Grossman). After these findings were made, television stations stopped publicizing news of local suicides. If it is believed that a publicized act of self-violence could lead to similar acts, then why wouldn t the same hold true for publicized violent acts against others?
In 1989 Brandon Centerwall conducted a study that has been used over the years to prove the effects of media violence on society. Centerwall followed the murder rates of whites in America and Canada from 1945 to 1974 and compared them to the murder rate of whites in South Africa for that same time period. It must be pointed out here that television broadcasting in South Africa was banned until 1975. Centerwall reported that while murder rates remained steady in South Africa, they doubled in Canada and America after television was introduced (Rhodes 55). His conclusion was that television was to blame for the increase in murders.
Centerwall however, did not report all of his findings. He neglected to report that during this same time span in other countries, such as Italy, France, and Germany, murder rates also remained steady or even declined as the number of televisions per home increased (Rhodes 56). How can an increase in violence be attributed to an increase in television viewing when America is one of the few countries in which a correlation between television viewing and violence can be made?
There is another school of thought that says media is not to blame for increased violence, but a deteriorating family structure is. In some cases, it is not that parents do not care what their children are exposed to; they are simply uninformed as to what their children are watching. Parents need to be educated as to the potential impact that television and other forms of violent media could have on their children (Grossman). There have been suggestions to create a media campaign which would educate parents on the V-Chip and rating systems, as well as other tools to prevent children from being exposed to media violence (Violence and the Media 288).
Whatever the causes of violence in children are, it is clear that this is a problem that is not going to go away any time soon, nor will it go away without someone taking action. It must be the responsibility of both the media industry and parents to make sure that children are not exposed to violent images, and if they are, to make sure that they understand that what they are watching is fiction, not reality. Violence is not acceptable.
Foegen, J.H. Newspapers as Behavior Modifiers? Editor & Publisher 9 Sep. 1996: 52-53. EBSCOhost. CD-ROM. 11 Nov. 2000.
Grossman, Dave. We are Training Our Kids to Kill. Saturday Evening Post Sep./Oct. 1999: 54-59. EBSCOhost. CD-ROM. 11 Nov. 2000.
Kantrowitz, Barbara. Is This Too Raw for Kids? Newsweek 7 Feb. 2000: 52.
Rhodes, Richard. The Media-Violence Myth. Rolling Stone 23 Nov. 2000: 55-58.
Violence and the Media: Influence on American Youth. Congressional Digest Nov. 1999: 266-288.