Media Violence and Violent Behavior Thesis

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Media Violence and Violent Behavior

The notion that violent media -- especially violent film, television, and video games -- plays a role in contributing to violent and criminal behavior in children and youths of all ages is an idea that has long been a topic of controversial discourse. Is there a link between media violence and violent or criminal behavior? Huesemann and Moise (1996), authors of "Media violence: Demonstrated public health threat to children," posit that there is absolutely a direct correlation between violent media exposure and violent and/or criminal behavior in children and youths. They make a strong case for their position by using examples from over 100 studies that have taken place over the last 40 years -- all around the globe. America has been devastated by a handful of violently fatal school shootings: kids killing kids with guns and kids killing teachers with guns. Many Americans simply throw their hands up in the air and blame it on the changing times. But have kids changed -- or have we changed our kids with the advent of horrifically violent media in the forms of TV, film, video games and music? While these shootings are utterly deplorable, Anderson, Gentile and Buckley (2007) state that the one and only positive outcome of the horrifying epidemic of schools shootings by youths with a history of playing violent video games is the public attention the topic has received. In 2002, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation included "fascination with violence-filled entertainment" as one of the warning signs characteristic of school shooters" (O'Toole, 2000). In direct reference to video games, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's report stated that the high-risk child or youth spends inordinate amounts of time playing video games with violent themes, and seems more interested in the violent images than in the game itself. On the Internet, the student regularly searches for Web sites involving violence, weapons, and other disturbing subjects" (O'Toole, 2000).

The research that is out there on the correlation between violent video games and violent behavior does reveal -- nearly unequivocally -- that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts (Anderson, Gentile & Buckley, 2003). The effects have been seen as larger for milder rather than severe forms of violence or aggression, but Anderson et al. (2003) notes that the effects for severe forms of aggression and/or violence are still very significant when compared with effects of other violence risk factors or medical effects seen as important by the medical population (for example, the effects of aspirin on heart attacks) (2003).

Short-term exposure to violent media increases the likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions. Anderson et al. (2003) reveals that large-scale longitudinal studies offer converging evidence linking frequent exposure to violent media in childhood with aggression later on in life -- including physical assaults and spousal abuse. Extremely violent criminal behaviors -- such as rape, murder and aggravated assault -- are considered not very common, so longitudinal studies with bigger samples are needed in order to approximate correctly how much customary childhood exposure to media violence increases the risk for extreme violence.

Frequent associations with violent crimes do not -- in themselves -- constitute a strong scientific evidence that exposure to violent video games is a contributing causal factor in violent behavior; however, the scientific debate about whether exposure to media violence causes increases in aggressive behavior is over and should have been over 30 years ago (Anderson et al. 2007).

This study will attempt to show the direct and immediate correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior. The hope of this study is to see the immediate reaction that children and older youths have to a limited exposure of violent media. Through the use of what is considered "violent" media (films and video games), which can be purchased in stores for certain age groups, the children and youths in this study will be exposed to violent media and then examined afterward while each are interacting with another child or youth. Because much research has been done on the effects of habitual exposure to media violence (the Columbine School shooters had a history of spending inordinate amounts of time playing violent video games), the study would like to inform us as to the immediate results of violent media exposure in a random sampling of children and youths.

Problem statement.

This research paper will investigate the immediate effects of violent media on children and youths ages 6 through 17-years of age.

Purpose and objectives of the study.

The purpose of this study is to show how children and older youths are negatively affected by the watching of violent media and/or participating in violent video games as well as how violent media may "desensitize" them so that they are more likely to act aggressively to others.

In recent years, American society has been plagued by various troubling events related to children and youth violence -- such as the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado, in the spring of 1999. Many Americans were confounded by the reality that two teenagers were able to murder their peers and teachers in cold blood -- and then turn the guns on themselves. In a furious quest for answers, commentators were led to the explosion of media violence portrayed in films, television and video games. In order to find a rationale as to why two American youths would pursue violence as opposed to more conventional pursuits of youths that age, critics of media violence pointed their fingers at the pervasiveness of graphic imagery in every medium aforementioned (and including music).

While many of the studies related to media violence and violent behavior has focused on long-term effects, there is reason to believe that even minimal exposure can trigger aggressive behavior in children and youths on a variety of levels as the violent images and sounds work to "desensitize conscious and concern" causing indifference for human well-being and life (Anderson, Berkowitz, Donnerstein, Huesmann, & Johnson, 2003).

The immediate effects of children's exposure to violent media is being examined because of the lack of research in this area. We now know that the killers of the Columbine massacre enjoying playing violent video games and that their participation in violent video games went on for some time, which has been linked to their violent behavior. We do not know exactly how influential minimal exposure to violent media can affect a child or youth's immediate behavior or thoughts.

It is hoped that this study will offer some valid evidence that will contribute towards a better understanding of how violent media can -- even very minimal exposure -- can lead to desensitization in children and youths, causing them to act aggressively toward others.

Rationale of the study.

Social learning theorists have given an abundance of experimental evidence to support the notion that exposure to media violence can significantly influence the behavior of young people. A social learning perspective is the most rationale means of understanding the link between violent media and violent behavior. According to social learning theorists, people acquire new responses by imitating the behavior of another individual. Huesmann and Moise (1997) contend that there is a definite and clear link between violence and children's watching of media violence. They specify five well-validated theoretical explanations for the association: (1) children imitate what they see others do; (2) media violence encourages and stimulates aggression by "desensitizing" children; (3) children view violent media portrayals in an attempt to rationalize their own aggression; (4) the observation of aggression results in cognitive priming, or the activation of existing aggressive thoughts; and, (5) children become physiologically stimulated in reaction to watching violence (1997).

Definition of terms.

Social Learning Theory: The social learning theory suggests that through the process of modeling and imitative learning, individuals and their behavior can be influenced by violence witnessed on the television or film screen.

Desensitization: The process of reducing sensitivity.

Limitations of the study.

Methods of data collection included video-taped interactions between the sample of children and older youths after they had each been exposed to 30 minutes of violent media either in the form of film viewing or participating in a violent video game. The choice of what type of media was decided based on the age of the child and youth. Because the media type chosen by researchers was based on what is age-appropriate (based on manufacturer's listing), some games may be more violent than others. However, this method of choosing games was chosen because it is most likely what parents look at when they buy their children games or movies to play or watch. This can be considered a limitation as there was not the means -- time or money -- to research all of the video games that are out there for children to play -- or movies to watch. The research simply has to be based, therefore, on the notion that parents often don't research games… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Media Violence and Violent Behavior."  Essaytown.com.  July 10, 2010.  Accessed January 20, 2020.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/media-violence-violent-behavior-notion/3268528.