Posted: March 30th, 2022
Violence in Media Contribute to Violent Behavior in Children?
In this day and age, the media is part and parcel of most people’s lives in such a way that there is an interaction with media in different forms each day. People access media for many reasons, some of which are to gather information, to be entertained and in order to advance their education. In today’s media, violence has become a common feature, raising fears of what the impact of this might be. This issue is prevalent all around the world today and has been accessed by people of all ages, races and religions. Questions have been raised as to the effect this violence has had and will have on the viewer (Hinkley, et al., 2014). Media can be accessed in various forms, including television, radios, films, games and the internet. All these mediums have a potential to affect people’s lives, their perception of life, their attitudes and even their principles. When it comes to children who are impressionable, the effects can go even further to affect them mentally and physically.
Children, in their teenage years, when exposed to this violence on the media, become less sensitive to violence and they may perceive it as a normal way in which issues are sorted out. Kirsh (2012) supports this view, stating that interaction with violence on the media regularly, accustoms a person to it, so that it becomes one of the accepted forms of resolving challenges and attaining objectives. The glamour that is attached to the use of weapons and the association of this with supremacy in the films and music videos can cause the audience to not only see this as normal, but also desire it. Hinkley, et al. (2014) state that media has been perceived to have replaced the teachers and parents as the primary source of shaping a young person’s life. Media has taken over and now the values and the behavior of young people can be seen to mirror that of media personalities or that viewed in movies. Young ladies are seen to be displaying the behavior of actresses in soap operas. This can be seen in terms of the hairstyles that they choose, the types of clothes that they wear, and even how they speak and behave. Some behaviors adopted are undesirable such as that of wearing inappropriate clothes and the taking of illegal drugs.
This review, thus, coming from a public health point-of-view, aims to look at the available research on the impact that media violence has on young people. Literature that is available on the PsychInfo and EBSCOhost will be discussed, focusing on the research done in the last five years.
The violence shown on the media and its impact on the antagonistic actions of teenagers was researched in a study carried on Ogbomosho high schools (Ojewola, 2014). This study collected data from all the high schools in this area as the teenagers formed the population. The research design that was adopted for the study was descriptive survey. The area had fifty-two schools from which random sampling selected eight schools for the study. Two were private and six were public schools. Out of these schools, there were four hundred respondents who participated in the study. A questionnaire was adopted, which had 25 questions. The coefficient of reliability was 0.72. The null hypotheses, which were three in number, were evaluated at a significance level of 0.05. The study also used various statistical tests, such as the analysis of variance and the t-test. Based on what was found out, the researcher concluded that violence in media did not have a significant impact on aggression as far as gender was concerned. However, when it came to age, the media violence did have a significant impact on the aggression. The study also researched the impact on media violence on antagonistic actions in private and public schools. On this hypothesis, it was discovered that the school type mattered when assessing the impact of media violence on aggressive conduct (Ojewola, 2014).
Ferguson (2015) carried out two research studies to find out the relationship between the violence on media and the violence in society. One of the studies focused on violence emanating from films and the numbers of homicides between 1920 and 2005 in the U.S. From this study, the researcher concluded that there were moderate correlations between the violence in movies and the rates of homicides in the middle of the 20th century. However, at its beginning and at its end, the relationship between these two variables was inverse. The second study was focused on how violence in video games affected the violence observed in the youth between 1995 and 2015. This study concluded that one cannot predict the violence in society based on the violence that is consumed through the media.
Other studies were done, which brought to light the empirical studies which revealed trends and directions that future research should take. These studies showed that there is agreement among researchers that indeed violence on media has harmful effects on children and teenagers. The researchers noted that there was suggested bias in the suggestions that were made otherwise, given that these were from people who could not be considered as experts (Bushman, et al., 2015). The researchers noted that there was a lot of literature, which covered the relationship between media violence viewed on screen and aggressive behavior. However, there was very little literature on the effect of media violence on print, and this may be reason for the lack of consensus among experts.
A study was carried out by Yousef, et al. (2014) in the United Arab Emirates, where the researchers concluded that there was a relationship between the viewing of television and video games and the behavioral challenges that children were demonstrating. The children who participated in this study had a mean age of 8.7 years. The children were scored on the number of hours that they spent watching television and video games. Those who were considered involved were those who spent two hours and more on this, while those less involved spent less than two hours watching or playing these. The two-hour limit was used as it is that which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 37% of the children who were found to have higher scores of being reserved, having problems socializing, lacking focus, and showing aggression, were those who spent more than two hours on these media. These children were found to have few siblings and also to be lower in terms of their birth order. Where these two factors were controlled, there was still a significant relationship between those with behavioral problems and the more than two hours of television and video time. The researchers concluded that two or more hours of television and video game viewing and interaction per day, results in behavioral problems for children. They recommended increasing the awareness of parents.
A meta-analytic test was proposed to examine the supposition that content of videogames impacts the social behaviors by Greitmeyer and Mugge (2014). In many research studies carried out with over 35,000 respondents, conclusions were made that social outcomes were related to content on violent and prosocial video games. The violence interacted with on video games resulted in the more aggressive behavior and less sociable outcomes. However, the prosocial video games had positive outcomes. These empirical studies demonstrated reliably that the content of video games has specific social outcomes that can be immediate or long-term.
Hinkley, et al. (2014) carried out studies to find out the relationship between the use of electronic media by preschoolers and their well-being later on. The study made use of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire and the KINDLR questionnaire. Two scales were used, one from each questionnaire. The first was the Peer Problems and Emotional Problems subscale and the second was the Emotional well-being, Self-esteem, Family functioning and Social networks sub-scale. The scales were set to detect the children who were more likely to have poor outcomes. There were differences in the associations as far as gender was concerned. Nevertheless, it was observed that where there was extensive viewing of media, there were poor outcomes in terms of well-being. The viewing of television during the week as well as during the weekend resulted in poor outcomes, unlike the use of computer games. Every additional hour of television resulted in a higher likelihood of experiencing problems emotionally as well as having a family that functioned poorly. The studies thus concluded that there was an association between the use of electronic media in young children and their poor well-being outcomes.
The method that I used to find materials for this research was to visit the PsychINFO and EBSCOhost databases. I needed to locate materials that had been researched in the last five years. The terms that I used in this search were violen* and aggress*, televis*, videogames, movies, games, and computer games, among others. Using the asterisk in some terms was a way to bring out all the terms that could be formed from this prefix. In this search, I ensured that the studies were confined to those with people as respondents. In addition to this, I looked for meta-analyses of violence as seen in media as well as belligerence. Each study that I looked at had to fulfill two things. First it had to be on violence in media and also focus on aggressive conduct, effects and influences (Kirsh, 2012).
Discussion of Possible Solutions
FCC standards should be reinstated as these are the ones specifically restricting content that is inappropriate for children being aired during hours when they may be watching television. Other than restricting violent shows, there should also be a restriction on the way that violence is portrayed as being okay, a norm, desirable or a means of gaining power. Parents should also be equipped with a guide on rating the content on television, movies, games and other media the same way that there is a system for rating films (Ferguson, et al., 2014). Industry regulations that restrict the exposure of minors to violence on media should be restored. One example of this is the National Association of Broadcasters code of 1980, which required that broadcasters regulate themselves so that their content was appropriate for audiences. In this regard, the anti-trust laws that prohibit such actions on the part of broadcasters should be removed.
Teachers have a role to play when children are young. They must help them to acquire and grow skills in finding solutions to conflicts in a non-aggressive way, in addition to viewing the media analytically, so that they are able to discern inappropriate behavior and pick up those that are positive and prosocial. They must also be aware of the content that is being aired on televisions so that they can be in a position to make parents aware of the impact of such violence on the well-being of children (Bushman, et al., 2015). Some actions, like deregulation of the media, especially when it comes to children’s programs, have pushed the responsibility for the restriction of content that the children view onto teachers and parents. Teachers can, however, intervene when they observe children showing aggression during playtime as they can use the opportunity to discuss what positive ways can be used to resolve conflict. They can also encourage children to use their imagination in this process and come up with creative solutions. They can work together with parents when they observe that a child has continually been displaying violence so that the parents can review the content that the child is exposed to at home (Krahe, et al., 2013).
Parents have a responsibility as well when it comes to the content that their children are viewing on television. They can regulate the amount of time that is spent watching television as well as the content that is viewed. Through viewing media with their children, they can discuss what is observed so that they help their children form good interpretations. They can also control the media that the children watch by eliminating undesirable options and having the children pick from options that the parents have approved of. Krahe, et al. (2013), note that children, many times, watch content not meant for them. According to the researchers, children watch only ten percent of content intended for them and ninety percent adult content. Parents can make their voice heard on this by speaking to advertisers and sponsors of content that is appropriate for their children. Television programs serve the purpose of promoting products. Thus, parents can make their voices heard through the sponsors. Ojewola (2014) states that parents need to speak with their legislators, so that they can strive to make the media safe for children to watch.
Counselling programs can also be used to bring to attention the influence that violence in media has on the children as well as society as a whole. As Bushman, et al. (2015) state, students who have been exposed to violence on the media end up developing aggressive and cruel behavior, which could lead to their participation in crime. Professional counsellors can bring this fact to light so that the government can make interventions that will curb this. Counsellors as well will help those students who have been exposed to this violence to find more socially acceptable ways of resolving conflict. Working together with parents, they can agitate for more wholesome television programs (Greitemeyer and Mugge, 2014).
Suggested Future Research
The use of violence as a form of entertainment in television and video games needs to be studied further so that the impact of the same in the short-term and long run can be determined. With suggestions from the aggression model that viewing violence can stimulate violent feelings and emotions, and in the future lead to aggressive actions, beliefs and attitudes, studies need to be done in order to establish how this violence affects someone under the influence of alcohol and drugs. In this way, conclusions can be made on whether these people are more vulnerable to the violence they are exposed to on media or not. Another area of study would be the impact of this violence on different genders (Ferguson, 2015; Bushman, et al., 2015; Yousef, et al., 2014).
Scientific studies have demonstrated that being exposed to violence on the media has resulted in increased aggression, with regards to thoughts, emotions and actions. The attraction of violence can be seen in the media in the U.S. society. This attraction reflected in the country’s entertainment via television, videogames, radio and the internet, has resulted in violent behavior on the part of the viewer. The viewing of this violence among the children and adolescent has resulted in violence being accepted as a normal way to resolve conflict. A lot of effort needs to be made by the government, the education system and the parents to regulate the content that children are exposed to so that they minimize negative outcomes of the same.
Bushman, B. J., Gollwitzer, M., & Cruz, C. (2015). There is broad consensus: Media researchers agree that violent media increase aggression in children, and pediatricians and parents concur. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4, 200-214. doi:10.1037/ppm0000046.
Ferguson, C. J. (2015). Does Media Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When. Journal of Communication 65, E1 — E22. doi:10.1111/jcom.12129
Ferguson, C. J., Olson, C. K., Kutner, L. A., & Warner, D. E. (2014). Violent video games, catharsis seeking, bullying, and delinquency: A multivariate analysis of effects. Crime & Delinquency, 60, 764-784. doi:10.1177/0011128710362201
Greitemeyer, T., & Mugge, D. O. (2014). Video games do affect social outcomes: a meta-analytic review of the effects of violent and prosocial video game play. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 578-589. doi:10.1177/0146167213520459
Hinkley, T., Verbestel, V., Ahrens, W., Lissner, L., Molnar, D. & … Moreno, L.A. (2014). Early childhood electronic media use as a predictor of poorer well-being: a prospective cohort study. JAMA Pediatr.;168:485-92
Kirsh, S. J. (2012). Children, adolescents, and media violence: A critical look at the research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA U.S.: Sage Publications.
Krahe, B., Busching, R., & Moller, I. (2013). Media Violence Use and Aggression among German Adolescents: Associations and Trajectories of Change in a Three-Wave Longitudinal Study. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1, 152-166. doi:10.1037/a0028663
Ojewola, F.O. (2014). The influence of Media Violence on Aggressive Behaviour among Adolescents in Selected Secondary Schools in Ogbomosho, Nigeria. IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education (IOSR-JRME) Vol. 4, Iss. 5 Ver. III, 49-53
Yousef, S., Eapen, V., Zoubeidi, T. & Mabrouk, A. (2014). Behavioral correlation with television watching and video game playing among children in the United Arab Emirates. Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract.;18:203-7.
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