EFFECTS OF MEDIA VIOLENCE ON CHILDREN The media can have a powerful influence on young, impressionable children. Growing up in the United States, a predominately richer country, most families own television sets and radios. Many children choose to spend their free time watching or listening to music on iPods or mp3 players. However, many lyrics and television programs are violent, and over the years media violence has changed for the worse.
Various studies “have found that children may become ‘immune’ to the horror of violence; gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems; imitate the violence they observe on television; and identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers” (Szaflik 1). The media’s use of violence as a form of entertainment has had a negative affect on our society by desensitizing people, especially young kids, to violent behavior and bringing out aggressive behavior, attitudes, and values.
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As the amount of programs through television, stereos, video games, and satellite dishes increase, media industries are competing for the loudest, most shocking idea to get the attention of the viewer. Throughout the years society has become more liberal. No longer are couples required to sleep in different beds on TV shows and the typical “clean, happy, family” often represented in shows throughout the 60s and 70s had been replaced with more racy, sexual themes to catch the viewers attention.
Violence and sex have become effective methods in promoting movies and television shows. Often these themes are used to the producer’s advantage as hooks before commercials, in avertisements, and in previews as a glimpse of something exciting that can be shown in a short period of time and interest the consumer. Action films have a high degree of fights, killings, special effects, and explosions to keep the attention of an audience. Violence is big in many action movies because it is not culture-specific and requires less complexity in plot, writing, and acting.
Easily accessible music videos and lyrics of popular genres such as rap, show a high degree of sex and violence that children can mirror and think is acceptable. In the past couple of years there has been a dramatic increase in violent lyrics, rage music, profanity, hate and sex throughout the music industry. Even video games that kids play for fun almost every day in some households have become frighteningly violent. Popular games such as Grand Theft Auto contain graphic violence and sexual content combined with movie-like realness and have made video games a popular yet dangerous hobby for young teens.
In society, children view watching movies rated PG13 or R as a sort of “rite of passage” into the adult world they yearn to be a part of. However, it is too easy to find a movie or program on a non-restricted channel that promotes and makes aggressive behavior look “cool”. One result of sex and violence in the media is the desensitation effect. Viewers who see violent rap videos are more likely to use social violence in school as a means of solving a problem.
In addition, youth who watch even racy primetime entertainment shows are more likely to initiate in intercourse and participate in sexual activities. Television shows and movies tend to promote sex and not acknowledge all the problems that could come along with it such as sexually transmitted diseases and emotional issues. The average child watches 3-4 hours of television per day and therefore is exposed to over 100,000 acts of violence and 8,000 murders before entering high school ( Szaflik 1). In effect, desensitization to acts of violence is taking place.
People are less aroused when seeing real life violence and death even on the news. Although media violence cannot be entirely to blame for tragedies involving teenage crime such as the shooting at Columbine high school, it definitely has shown to be a huge contributing factor. “Researchers found nonaggressive children who had been exposed to high levels of media violence had similar patterns of activity in an area of the brain linked to self-control and attention as aggressive children who had been diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorder” (Mathis 1).
A study like this demonstrates that violence on television and in movies definitely can negatively affect how children can view the world and social issues in their life. And, although it may not correlate directly with crime, the more a person is exposed to violence, the more desensitized they become and more likely they are to use violence and aggression on an everyday basis compared to if they never were exposed at all. Media corporations routinely target children and teens and market violent entertainment to specific age groups ignoring rating systems and age restrictions.
R-rated movies, music with “explicit content ” labels and video games rated “mature” are all being sold to underage kids. Communication industries know that children and young people are a huge part of consumers and also influence family decisions on what is viewed in homes. They put advertisements in magazines targeted for youth and put movie previews on television when young kids will most likely be watching. As responsible adults, there are some ways parents can prevent their children from viewing violent television.
The Vchip, a device required in all new TV sets, can block violent programs on the television sets of underage viewers. A rating system determines if there is inappropriate violence or sexual behavior which parents could then prevent from being viewed on the televisions in their home. In addition, parents should become more aware of the amount of television their children are watching, the music they are listening to, and the content on the video games being played within their home.
Even many shows considered age appropriate such as cartoons can show unrealistic violence without consequences such as cartoon characters being smashed with hammers and then popping back up to life unharmed. Although easily looked over in every day households, these images through the eyes of a young, impressionable child, could have can have drastic effects. Due to corporations targeting young people, the media has had a major influence on society.
A new age of violence in video games, music, movies, and television, has negatively affected the youth of America. These resources have become too readily accessible to an underage audience, therefore influencing the thoughts and actions of children. Unfortunately, children are being desensitized to violence and sex, which is changing the way they deal with peers and solve problems. Change needs to be implemented in order to create a safer, healthier environment for children when it comes to what they watch on television and hear on the radio.