Media Violence- Model Kid to Maniac Killer

‘The media made them like this!’

This is a sentiment regularly echoed by the masses, from anxious parents to panicked officials.

Why?

Well, put simply, blaming television or video games for the violent crimes committed by youth is easier than saying ‘they fell through the cracks’.

Australia’s flawed child-welfare system means that at risk youth are often left to suffer frequent domestic abuse, alcoholism and neglect. This can contribute to feelings of isolation and, in more extreme cases, mental illness, resulting in dangerous behaviour. Conversely, certain personality traits and social influences simply predispose children to violent tendencies. The so-called ‘established’ links between conduct and media exposure are tenuous at best.

There is this rather widespread opinion that media violence stimulates aggressive behaviour through desensitisation. Essentially, the more violence that a child views in video games or on television, the less emotionally concerned they become and the more acceptable it appears (Cline, Croft & Courrier, 1973).  This statement, however, does not address these external influences, or the often flawed research methodology of scientists.

MEMESource: imgur.com (My Creation)


In many of these studies, results are generalized to include all children, but yet analysis tends to be conducted on young, white males, without taking into consideration females or other cultures. Because they’re all the same- right?

Furthermore, demand characteristics are extremely common within controlled experiments. Imagine being a child, sent into a foreign lab setting and force fed violent videos, how would you react? Many children act violently in turn,  hitting, punching or kicking, as they believe this is what is desired and expected of them.

Interestingly, when a natural experiment was conducted in St Helena; those introduced to television did not exhibit increased aggressive behaviour, or show any signs of desensitisation to horrific acts (Charlton & O’Bey, 1997).

Let’s for a moment consider the opposing argument…Even if media exposure was to lead to destructive behaviour in children, parents have tremendous power to moderate that influence. Current technology and paid TV is equipped with parental locks, free-to-air television is rated and broadcasted at appropriate times, and children are unable to purchase highly rated video games or movies without ID checks.

So again, why are they blaming such a highly regulated industry for the behaviour of youth? Because it’s convenient. As a society we seek to blame our faults on the latest, most misunderstood, controversial technologies and beliefs.

References

  • Cline, V. B., Croft, R. G., & Courrier, S. (1973). Desensitization of children to television violence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27(3), 360-365.
  • Charlton, T & O’Bey, S. (1997). Links Between Television and Behaviour: Students’ Perceptions of TV’s Impact in St Helena, South Atlantic. Support for Learning, 130-136.
  • Turnbull, S. (2016), ‘Media Audience’, BCM 110, University of Wollongong
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