Friday, May 13, 2016

Violence In The Media

"Nothing good ever comes of violence."
–Martin Luther

Does violence in the media make children more prone to violence?

(PC: Photobucket)
This is a question asked by psychologists since Albert Bandura's 1961 Bobo doll experiment. In this experiment, adults were told to act angrily and hit a Bobo doll in front of very young children. Before leaving the room, the adults placed a box of toys just out of reach of the child. When the adults were gone, the children became frustrated, and eventually hit the Bobo doll when they became angry.

This begs the question: does violence in the media make modern children more prone to violence?

Violence on TV and How It Can Affect Your Children

On one side of the argument, scientists say that exposing children to violence at an early age can make them more violent later in life. An article titled Violence on TV and How It Can Affect Your Children in The Huffington Post claims:

"children seeing too much violence on TV are more likely to be argumentative, as they have dispensed with the slow caution of inhibitors. These children act out in class and are more likely to be the class bully. Since they seem to be less patient than their counterparts, studies show that children who watch too much violence on TV appear to be more unwilling to cooperate, and delay gratification. Therefore, they seem to demonstrate a strong sense of entitlement."

The Indiana University School of Medicine decided to test this. They examined young men who were exposed to violent media, and after a week of playing violent video games, there were visible alterations in the MRI brain scans of the men. (Note: Though there were changes in the MRI scans, it is unclear what the changes actually did.)

Studies from The Macquarie University Children and Families Research Centre show that children who watch violent movies are:

"more likely to view the world as an unsympathetic, malicious and scary place, and that this stimulates aggression. It also suggests children are more likely to exhibit competitive behavior while becoming desensitized to violence."

Is this true?

Is all of this true? Does this information prove that children are more prone to violence when they are exposed to violence in the media at a young age? Is all of the violence shown in the media contributing to a more violent world? Do we need to protect children from all this?


Despite all of the violence shown in the media, we are actually living in the most peaceful era ever seen in human history. Since the Medieval era, violence has slowly subsided over time, and has recently taken a nosedive.

In the age of the Nazi, Darfur, Rwanda genocides (and a few others), the World Wars, the War on Terror, the conflict of the Palestinians and Israelis, and school shootings, a "currently less violent world" may sound incredibly ridiculous.

And yet, this is truly the case. In fact, men and women in the United States and Europe have only around a 2% chance of being killed by another person, opposed to the 60% chance of being killed by another person 500 or more years ago. What's most surprising, is that these statistics include all of the deaths in both World Wars.

How is this possible?

In the Middle Ages, if you stole a loaf of bread, you could have your tongue cut out. Think about the days of ancient Rome, where gladiators fought to the death to entertain the public. Today, those things would be considered inhumane and terrible. Back then, it was modern life.

Back then, these acts of violence would not be broadcast to the nation. No one would draw such mass attention to horrific ways of punishment or entertainment. Maybe some people spoke out against it, but they didn't have anything like CNN.

The truth is, violence seems bigger and more prevalent nowadays because of the media. Media makes violence a very big deal. You hear about ten deaths in an earthquake. A school shooting. A murder. When we (the public) hear about the details on these horrific events, when we read the backstories on the people who were wronged, it becomes personal. We pick a side, and in turn, we feel personally wronged too. The media makes these acts of violence felt by the nation. It makes people feel like it's too much. And they're right. Any violence is too much violence.

But it is less than it has ever been.


Yes, violence in the media is very disturbing. But statistics point out that our world is less violent than it has ever been. This doesn't mean that being exposed to media's portrayal of violence has no effect on a child, but if it does, it does very little to change a child's behavior. Shielding your child from violence in the media will not make them a less violent person.

So what does cause violence?

The real answer to that question lies within ourselves. What kind of role models will we choose to be for our children? The recipe for a violent person is witnessing or experiencing violence, but not in the media. It is witnessing violence in their own personal lives.

A violent person may watch more violent movies or play more violent video games, but correlation is not causation. Lots of people play violent video games.

My Personal Experience:

According to my friends, past friends, and even people who I don't know very well, I have always been described as gentle. I'm the patient one, the comforting one, the forgiving one. A lot of people have described me as very sweet and innocent.

So when people find out that I was allowed to watch R rated movies, read books with explicit and violent content, watch the same news stories, and play the violent shoot-em-up video games with my dad since before I can remember, people are very surprised.

Despite all of these things, I have never been a violent person. When I was little, I may have hit or pinched my sister a few times. But that is the extent of it. I am dedicated to love, peace, tolerance, and understanding, and I am setting out on this journey to help do something good for humanity in my lifetime. My parents never treated me like I was a child. They spoke to me as an equal, as long as I acted like an adult. I learned important values in life, not from the media, but from my parents.

To put an end to violence, people must be exposed to it. You can't fight an enemy you don't understand.

The media is very easy to blame for all the problems of the world. But when children act out violently, it comes from his or her parents, or his or her friends. It comes from how, where, and when they grew up. Do the parents listen to the child, or does the child feel alienated? Do the parents try to understand what their child is going through? All of these things play a very important role in children.

Whether children see violence in the media or not, the true determinant of whether a child will be violent or not is us.

So be the best you can be.

Your children are watching.



Huffington Post: Violence on TV and How It Can Affect Your Children
Psychology Today: Violence, The Media And Your Brain
Steven Pinker: The surprising decline in violence
Livestrong: What Are the Causes of Violent Behavior in Children