Term Paper: Media and Violence Does Media Affect Behavior

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Media and violence: Does media affect behavior?

Ever since the rise in popularity of television in American households from the 1950's until today, the public has been complaining that there is too much violence in television programming (Potter 2006). Debates have been going on for decades concerning media violence and its effect on behavior however there is substantial evidence to support the fact that media violence does have negative effects on behavior.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, American children will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time they reach 18 years of age (Muscari 2002). In the November 2002 issue of Pediatric Nursing, Mary Muscari notes that these numbers "exclude time spent watching movies, playing video/computer games or online interactive media, and listening to music, all of which may contain violent content" (Muscari 2002). There has been a proliferation of media content that encourages violent and other antisocial behaviors since the deregulation of broadcasting in 1980 (Muscari 2002).

In 2000, the Congressional Public Health Summit, which included six medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, issued a statement declaring that media violence can be hazardous to children's health. In fact, studies point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive attitudes, values and behaviors in some children (Muscari 2002).

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, media violence can have several measurable negative associative effects on children, including "seeing violence as an effective way of solving conflicts, developing desensitization towards violence in real life, viewing the world as a violent and mean place, and developing a greater tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life" (Muscari 2002). For example, it has been reported that the perpetrators of recent school shootings were exposed to and "enamored" by several forms of violent media (Muscari 2002).

Out of more than 3,500 studies, including laboratory experiments, naturalistic studies, correlational studies, and longitudinal studies that explored the impact of media violence on children, only a very few indicated no effect (Muscari 2002). Muscari notes that "media violence viewing is consistently associated with higher levels of antisocial behavior, ranging from trivial violence toward toys to serious criminal violence," and many experts believed that the evidence linking media violence to aggressive behavior is stronger than the evidence linking smoking to lung cancer (Muscari 2002).

American children watch an average of 28 hours of television per week, and while adults understand that media violence is fabricated, children are much more vulnerable (Muscari 2002). For example, preschoolers cannot understand the difference between reality and fantasy, thus what they see on television programs seem real, they believe that the fictional characters actually act and feel as portrayed, and that they live in their television or some other fantasy world in between shows (Muscari 2002). In fact, even school aged children have difficulty understanding that actors play characters that are created by script writers. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children between the ages of 8 and 12 are especially sensitive to television violence, as are children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems (Muscari 2002). Surprisingly, children as young as 14 months imitate the violent behavior they see on television, according to the American Psychiatric Association (Muscari 2002). There seems little doubt that exposure to media violence increases the chance that a child "will endorse aggressive attitudes, act violently immediately afterward, or demonstrate aggressive behavior in school" (Muscari 2002). In other words, when a child is confronted with a stressful situation, he or she is more likely to identify with violent cues such as verbally expressing revenge or using an angry voice tone, and will respond in an aggressive manner (Muscari 2002). Moreover, "children who identify with aggressive heroes are more likely to be more aggressive, because they learn that violence is effective, courageous, socially acceptable and rewarded;" they are vulnerable to the aggression cycle (Muscari 2002).

Because television has been linked to numerous social and behavioral influences on children, it is important for parents to gain control over their child's television viewing (Muscari 2002). More than 50% of children aged 2 to 18 have a television set in their bedrooms, and the average 1-year-old watches approximately 6 hours… [END OF PREVIEW]

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