Essay: Violence in Media the Public

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Violence in Media

The public debate over media violence dates back to the 1930s when experts began to question its effects on youth while also considering the manner in which society should address this potential dilemma (Anderson and Gentile, 2007). The meteoric rise of television that began in the 1950s further exacerbated the situation; and a wealth of studies conducted since then by both government and nongovernment organizations confirms there are consequences to viewing disturbing images.

There is no doubt that violence is a constant element in the varied forms of entertainment media. The question is whether exposure to brutality and bloodshed invoke acts of violence on the part of a young viewer; and, if so, should the media be held liable for such. These concerns have plagued even the most educated of experts and definitive responses run the course of the timeless adage "which came first: the chicken or the egg"? In other words this translates to inquiring whether media incites violent behavior in children or if there are children with a propensity for violence who are attracted to this genre of media. Certainly there is evidence to support either proposition; however, the research is flawed and the use of restrictions beyond warning labels and ratings will negatively impact artistry and creativity (Anderson and Gentile, 2007).

The overall impact on the ratings of programs or on the show/primetime timings will also be influenced negatively as the shows with high violence will probably have restricted exposure. This will then de-motivate the use of intelligent or creative depiction of a violent yet true story. This further impedes the first amendment, as it restricts the overall freedom of expression by providing ratings or restrictions on what can be shown and how. If this particular impediment exists in America, the very foundation on which the country is built and on what it prides itself for would be shattered if and when the restriction on media first surfaces. After that, the expectation would be that -- if the restrictions on media are successful, the same theory could be applied across other industries as well making America a controlled or dictated society -- or if the restrictions on media are not successful, then the overall perception of the country or government would be that of a weak government that can't even manage the exposure to violent content in its own society; this could further makes the local industries feel that they exploit the first amendment to their advantage. Hence it is extremely important that this aspect is tackled carefully and with balance.

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Respected organizations that advocate for children; including the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); offer that over 3500 studies confirm there is a correlation between violent media and childhood aggression. But other research conducted by equally esteemed groups (confirmed by meta-analyses by Paik and Comstock, (1994) place the figure at a mere 200 studies published in peer-reviewed journals, and suggest that violent media causes negative childhood outbursts such as fighting, rampages, and undue cruelty to animals and others. Critics alternate between supporting and deriding the purported academic substantiation of a connection between violent media viewing and childhood aggression (short of violent crime) citing multiple theoretical and methodological flaws (see Tedeschi & Quigley, 1996; Pinker, 2002). One example of this is the all too common an occurrence of inadequate oversight of the experimental control conditions such as failure to monitor outcomes between nonviolent and violent video games (Anderson and Gentile, 2007).

One of the major limitations of most of the research related to the impact that the social media of gaming (online and offline) is that all relative research is expected to have negative impacts. At the same time, little consideration is afforded to factors that could have a potential influence on a child's response including aspects of gaming experience such as the level of frustration a child may experience or how much he or she may actually enjoy the game. There is also a certain level of oversight for the social context in which the media violence is experienced. The fact is that a child watching or playing a game within a hostile environment might lead to hostile or aggressive actions irrespective of whether the game was of a violent nature on its own. Specifically, regarding the application of theoretical models, the social dynamics (such as offline vs. online gaming) are an inherent component of the gaming experience itself (Kaye & Bryce, 2012).

The important thing to realize in this context is that the aspect of correlation in the context of gaming and violent reactions in games is not equal or proportional to the concept of causation. For instance, the example given above of a child playing or watching a game in a hostile environment like a fight between parents could have been the actual cause of an aggressive reaction from the child or violent inclinations in his character but because the visual interpretation was that of the child watching or playing a game, the direct analysis completely disregarded the social context. However, the causation in most cases leads to the violent behavior and the causation is always different in different contexts. The correlation of playing a violent game in a hostile environment also stands true as that too could lead to increased violent inclinations in the youth or adolescents.

Too, this singular task can produce a wide variety of ways in which to assess the 'aggression' factor - even from one individual participant. The lack of a standardized measurement tool and/or definition results in untrustworthy and possible invalid results. One could even go so far as to suggest that the results were 'doctored' to fit preconceived and desired expectations. There is research to support this aforementioned allegation. A report published in the Journal of Pediatrics by Ferguson and Kilburn noted that measures of aggression that were poorly standardized produced more 'false positives' of aggression than those that were appropriately standardized (Anderson and Gentile, 2007).

It has long been known that perhaps the greatest flaw in all of this research is the simple lack of an adequate definition of the term 'aggression' as it is used in studies. Needless to say there have been multiple critics of the meaning of the word 'aggression' and how it is used for experimental purposes (Deselms & Altman, 2003). It would seem obvious that this then has a direct effect on the validity of these measures as they are used to research 'aggression'. Despite this obvious conundrum - that being that if it cannot be defined in scientific terms how can it possibly be measured. There are detailed taxonomies of aggressions in different forms but what is lacking is agreement across the research landscape as to such things as aggression sub-types as defined for use in peer-reviewed journals. For example, some view an emotional outburst in schools as an underlay of an aggressive foundation amongst children while others view physical assault or bullying as a form of aggression as well.

Frankly, size of the overall exposure to violent media or social contexts is an important factor when considering effects in most research with regard to statistical significance. Apropos of media violence, studies usually yield insignificant effects that are hardly applicable to the real world. The response of researchers in media violence is to point to medical studies that often offer similarly infinitesimal results (however, Block and Crain, 2007, noted that these researchers may have erred about the effect of sizes from medical research).

Another chasm in media violence theories is the continued promotion that there is even cause to link media violence with societal violence. The former is a rather recent phenomenon - particularly with regard to the latter which has been in existence since humanity came into existence. Yet, researchers of media violence focus on data from the last half of the twentieth century; however, when the scope is widened to include a wider timeline there is evidence of spikes in violent crimes dating back to the late 1800s - when this type of record keeping was initiated. The highest homicidal rate in the United States has not been in recent years at all but occurred in the 1930s! So there is a 'disconnect' in the research again when records revealed a decline in violent juvenile crime rates in the 1990s despite the explosion of violent video games to the market (Anderson and Bushman, 2001).

Finally, there is no explanation for the fact that countries around the world with similar availability and rates of media violence have markedly lower scale of societal violence. In a study offered by Huesmann & Eron that examined media violence effects multinationally; their results revealed there was no connection between aggressive behavior and television violence (as cited in Anderson and Bushman, 2001). Some of the other factors that lead to further violence in the U.S. that makes children more aggressive include social aspects like low earning income families, socio-ethnic pressures, easy access to guns, lack… [END OF PREVIEW]

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