Media Violence and Real-life ViolenceThere is a general consensus among people that media violence fosters deviant behavior in children. However, some argue that media violence has no effect on its audience. Nevertheless, there has been a tremendous amount of research that proves that violence on television and other forms of mass media profoundly influences the minds and actions of children.
Some may argue that violence in the media does not have a detrimental effect on children. Instead, it is believed that other factors, such as biological, psychological, and social, effect children more than media. The biological factors that have an effect on children and their capability and likeliness to perform violent acts are central nervous system malfunctions, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, chromosomal abnormalities, and a genetic predisposition toward aggression. Psychological factors are psychopathic personalities, unhealthy relationships with parents, and mental illness. Social factors that contribute to aggression and violence among youth are their social surroundings, ethnicity, poverty level, religion, family structure, and upbringing. None of these factors include the possibility that violence in the media may be conducive to violence in the lives of children.
However, studies done on the effects of media violence have proved that violence on television does in fact have destructive consequences in the lives of children. American children watch an average of three to fours hours of television a day. Television is a dominant influence in cultivating values in children and shaping their behavior. Unfortunately, much of today’s television programming is violent.
Many studies on the effects of television violence on children and teenagers have found that children can become immune to the revulsion of violence, accept violence as an acceptable way to solve real-life problems, imitate the violent acts they see, and begin to identify with the characters on television. The National Television Violence Study and thousands of others have proved that media violence can lead to aggressive behavior in children. These studies have found that 61 percent of all television programming contains violence, and that childrens shows are the most violent of all which is very frightening. The study has also found that by the time an average child leaves elementary school, he or she will have witnessed 8,000 murders and over 100,000 other acts of violence on television. The amount of violence during Saturday morning cartoons is higher than the amount of violence during primetime programming.
Media violence is especially damaging to children under the age of eight because they cannot distinguish between real life and fantasy. Violent acts on television may seem real to young children, and can thus be distressing to the young viewers. Violence in the media can and does control the thoughts and actions of children. The National Association for the Education of Young Children focuses on three effects of media violence on children: desensitization, increased aggression, and the Mean World Syndrome.
Desensitization occurs when children become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, increased aggression is when children are more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways towards others, and the Mean World Syndrome is when children become more fearful of the world around them. Seeing violence repeatedly on television can make a child believe that violence solves problems. Not only is the child affected by the violent acts, but also by the music, lighting, and other techniques. The music plays a part in the excitement of the scene, and backlighting and close-ups make characters heroes no matter how they solve problems.
The hero always looks calm, clean, and collected even though he just engaged in highly physical situations. The burglar always rises unscathed from his accident, and there is little blood when the burglar is shot although in real life there should be. Media violence does not show the consequences of real-life violence, especially in cartoons, toy commercials and music videos. Consequently, children develop confusions about real life after viewing violent programs; thus, they come to accept violent behavior as normal and appropriate. In fact, many children that watched violent television were convicted of serious, violence-related crimes by the age of 36.
Theories on the connection between violence in the media and violence in real life have researched through the years. In 1976, the House Delegates of .