Tv Violence Essay, Research Paper
Violence on Tv
Most people in our society generally have the opinion that violence on television
increases aggression in children and adolescents. Does it ? Who is to say whether
television has a positively direct effect or a positive correlation ? However, the majority
of the people who have researched this topic have discovered that violence on television
is indeed one of the prime factors contributing to the increase in violent and aggressive
behavior among the youth in society. That is to say “there has been a growth of strong
evidence to suggest that television violence does play an important and contributory part
in the learning of aggression.” In other words, violence in the media helps promote and
encourage children and adolescents to freely express their abusive behavior. As a result,
the topic of my essay will help support the issue that violence in the media causes
abusive behavior in youths. Furthermore, I will emphasize if their are any differences in
aggressive behavior between the genders.
By nature when babies first begin to learn, they do so by imitating other people’s
behaviors. That is to say, “children are born ready to imitate adult behavior” because
“much of human behavior is learned by observing another person’s behavior and, in some
cases, imitating it.” One of the first imitation of a newborn baby is the imitation of adults’
facial movements. For example, in the book Infant and Child, by Judith Rich Harris and
Robert M. Liebert, “it shows a baby girl only six days old sticking out her tongue in
imitation of her mother’s actions.” This clearly shows that from the moment a child is
born, he or she is already learning from observing. Therefore, as the child grows up and
starts watching television, the child can not distinguish between what is reality and what
is fantasy. “In the minds of young children, television is a source of entirely factual
information regarding how the world works.” For instance, as a child I could remember
imitating violent acts after watching violent movies such as Superman, Star Wars, Star
Trek, and Rocky. It felt fun to imitate these so called heroes because it seemed like the
characters in the movies were invincible. Moreover, the main characters in the movies
were always liked and respected.
There are many other examples that confirm that people imitate violence scenes
on television. For instance, the cartoon Beavis and Butthead on MTV in the United States
was widely criticized for depicting the cartoon characters shaped like cigarettes. The
cartoon also gained national attention when a young five year old fan from the United
States set fire to his house after watching the show. This was due to the fact that in one of
the episodes, Beavis and Butthead were going around setting fires to houses.
Furthermore, in a resent incident in Norway, two children beat another child by
jumping and kicking the child in the head and other parts of her body numerous times. As
a result, the child died from being left out in the cold because she was not able to move
due to her injuries. Later the officials had discovered that the barbaric incident was due
to the fact that the children had watched the violent cartoon Mighty Morphin Power
Rangers. The children thought that the girl would later get up because in the show the
characters never die. Consequently, the show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was
canceled throughout Norway. In addition, YTV, a youth cable channel in Canada and
also other television networks has recently canceled the show because it did not meet
Children are not the only ones who get influenced by violence in the media. Many times
adolescents and young adults also mimic violence portrayed in the media. In another
recent incident in the United States, a young man after seeing the movie Natural Born
Killer starring Woody Harrelson shaved his head to look like the main character and shot
his parents. This definitely proves that children are not the only ones who try to imitate
Many studies have been conducted to determine if in fact people imitate or model
aggressive behaviors. For example, one of the most well know studies of modeling
aggressive behavior and to determine if children imitate violent acts observed on
television is an experiment done by Albert Bandura, Dorothea Ross and Sheila A. Ross.
To test their hypothesis, the subjects were divided into three experimental groups and one
control group. One group observed real-life aggression, the second group observed the
same models but on film and the third group watched an aggressive cartoon. The groups
were also subdivided into male and female subjects so that half the subjects were
exposed to the same sex models, while the other half viewed model of the opposite sex.
After the subjects were exposed to aggression, they were tested for the amount of
imitation and non-imitation aggression. As a result, the boys were significantly more
aggressive than the girls. Gender was also positively correlated with imitative aggression
and the subjects tended to imitate the same sex models more than the opposite sex.
In addition, Bandura, Ross and Ross had predicted that the subjects who saw aggressive
behavior being displayed would consequently be more aggressive when frustrated than
the subjects who were as frustrated but had not been exposed to prior aggression. The
experiment confirmed their prediction. One of the finding of the experiment was that the
sex of the child and the sex of the model provides support that the models influence is
somewhat determined by the gender of the model. Also, the experiment has strong
evidence that children who are exposed to film aggression will have their aggressive
behavior increased. The findings also show that children tend to model their aggression
after social behavior particularly that which is seen on television. Their conclusion can
also imply that children who observe aggression in real-life situations, will tend to be
more aggressive than children who live in an aggressive environment.
Another example of modeling aggressive behavior in television is the study as
reported in The Impact of Television (1986) where Tannis Williams and her associates at
the University of British Columbia studied a rural community which was recently
introduced to television compared to two rural communities that already had television
and high levels of aggression. The observation was conducted after the first community
had television for two years. The subjects were forty-five first and second grade students.
After the two year period, William and her associates had concluded that the aggression
among children in the first community increased by 160 percent whereas in the other
communities the aggression levels remained the same. One can infer from this study that
television has an impact on children reenacting the violent behaviors.
Moreover, Brandan S. Centerwall in Television and Violent Crime studies the
crime rates in the United States, Canada and South Africa between the years 1945 to
1974 when South Africa did not have television whereas both the United States and
Canada had television. His results concluded that the “homicide rate in the United States
increased by 93 percent [and] in Canada the homicide rate increased 92 percent. In South
Africa the homicide rate declined by 7 percent.”
In fact, in 1982 the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMB) did a study to
conclude if violence on television increases hostile behaviors in people. They also
determined that people will imitate the violent acts seen in the media. In addition, the
NIMB reported “that television violence causes aggression, and that a distorted world
presented on television causes heavy viewers to see the real world as more hostile and
scary than it really is.”
What gender is more likely to imitate aggressive behavior? It is generally agreed
that boys are more naturally aggressive than girls. In fact, Bandura, Ross and Ross have
concluded that boys are more likely to imitate violent behavior and their aggression
comes forth more when it is stimulated by outside models. “The tendency for boys to be
more aggressive than girls is the largest and most consistent gender difference in
behavior, and is quite clear by the age or 2 or 2 1/2.” Moreover, the effects of television
watching on children’s aggressiveness was studied by Leonard Eron, of the University of
Illinois. He concluded that boys were significantly more aggressive than girls after
watching violent shows. Ten years later, he conducted a study on the same children when
they were nineteen years old. This time there was no correlation between television
viewing and aggressive behavior although there was a positive correlation between the
boys television viewing habit at the age of nine and their aggressive behavior and age
nineteen. “Thus, for boys (though not for girls), watching violent TV shows at age 9
appeared to lead to an increase in aggressiveness at age 19.”
In short, most of the evidence shown throughout the essay concludes that the
media indeed increases violent and aggressive behaviors in people. Therefore, with this
available information, why do parents let their children watch these violent movies and
television shows? The television networks and movie producers should not be the only
ones blamed for violent scenes. The real blame should be directed at the parents. In
addition, “limiting children’s exposure to television violence should become part of the
public health agenda.”
Bandura, Albert, Dorothea Ross and Sheila A. Ross. Imitation of Film-Mediated
Aggressive Models in Notable Selections in Psychology. Guilford, Ct.
Publishing Group, 1994, pp. 133-140.
Barcus, F. Earle, Ph.D. Images of Life on Children’s Television: sex roles,
minorities and families. New York: Praeger, 1983.
Barlow Geoffrey and Alison Hill. Video Violence and Children. New York :
Hodder and Stoughton Limited, 1985.
Centerwall, S. Brandon. Television and Violent Crime in The Public Interest Vol.
No. 111, pp.56-71 Spring ‘93, New York.
Cook D. Thomas, Deborah A. Kendzierski and Stephan V. Thomas. The Implicit
Assumption of Television Research: an analysis of the 1982 NIMH report on television
and behavior in The Public Opinion Quarterly Vol.47 pp.161-201 Summer ‘83. New
Harris, Rich Judith and Robert M. Liebert. Infant & Child: Development From
Birth Through Middle Childhood. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1992.