How Does Violence Displayed in the Media Affect Children?
Media's influence cannot escape anybody, especially the youngsters who grew up watching television, playing video games, listening to obscene music and have total access to the World Wide Web. Even though they become familiar with the digital world at a very young age, they are unaware of the many dangers that this world brings about. This essay is intended to examine the relationship between mass media and young people more precisely to persist in the idea that violence shown in the media inevitably has a bad impact on children.
Media violence has always been a controversial issue which was always in the interest of the public. Signorielli (2005) found that “since 1952 there have been more than thirty separate sets of hearings about television violence - roughly one hearing every one and a half years”. However, many people believe that such influence does not affect children in the wrong way. In addition, they even point out that censoring certain content interfere children in their personal development. According to their beliefs, children should not live in an unrealistic world where they are sheltered from all bad information. It will confuse children's understanding of the world and they will not be aware of the dangers that they might encounter in their lives later on.
Furthermore, young children do not possess an explicit knowledge of the world around them. However, at a young age curiosity for the unknown is very strong. It is usually the parents' duty to explain the new concepts to their children. Still, parents are constantly getting more occupied and engaged in many fields of live, therefore, they cannot devote all their time to inform their kids. Besides, parents usually try to skip proper explanation on more complex topics like violence and sex. Therefore, children turn to the media to acquire new information. Taylor (2001) considers the idea of taking away sexual and violent media to be dangerous. Naturally, children will get a bad impression on the world by seeing harsh images and inappropriate behavior displayed on screen or in the printed media but it helps them in building up their morals. They resist on that behavior and learn to refuse to act that way. Taylor (2001) also claims that the “opposition to violence in the media puts morals and standard in the backseat”.
It is important to note that children are affected differently by these images. Still, the majority of people usually do not show signs of aggressive behavior. Many people have been watching television and the number of complaints about violent images are not convincing enough. As Taylor (2001) supporting this idea noted that “if there were really a cause and effect link between real violence and media violence, then it would have been proven by now”. He also believes children should not be alienated from these images as “this insistence that children see only material that teaches approved values is a way of stunting kids intellectually”.
Nevertheless, media certainly aims to control the level of violence for the public by using censorship to block the unwanted material. Similarly, media applies age restriction rules on particular mediums.
In summary, media's approach is to inform people as efficiently as possible which believes that withholding information is not the absolute solution for battling violence.
In today's modern world people would say without a doubt that media is definitely the major source of information. Nevertheless, its main target is not children. Children are too young to understand what is going on in the media without a parent who would put it in the right context for them. Media should take responsibility for what it present. Children are the most influential because they believe whatever they see on the screen. They are unable to differentiate between fact and fiction this early in their lives. They cannot understand the conceptual differences between dying and murder nor can tell the differences between sex and rape. Interestingly, these topics often appear in the media. Basically, the problem lies in that what they interpret from the media hugely affect their acquisition of things and their way of thinking. These youngsters could get a distorted view of the world.
Moreover, media is undoubtedly not ranked among the most accurate source of information for children. Media has a very influential power but children can take it for granted. Media does not always present valid information and children can be easily convinced about its opposite. Parents must not let their children watch more mature content at all. Media makes differences between worthy news and non-worthy news. It is a highly money-driven industry which only broadcasts what is financially beneficial. Media benefits from presenting violence, for example, in television because television programs containing violence known to have a significantly higher audience.
However, the new technologies opened doors to new possibilities. As their free time activity children are likely to spend enormous amount of time playing all sorts of video games. Online games are often full of violence and players are even rewarded for being violent. In a fighting game, for instance, when a fighter with violent behavior comes out as the winner of the game, it certainly gives the impression for the child that violence is the appropriate way to deal with controversial issues. Bandura (1961) has examined that “aggressive attitudes and behaviors are learned by imitating observed models”. By this, children playing with video games will look up to these ‘heroes' and try to imitate their aggressive behavior. Signorielli (2005) did further examinations on the correlation between real life violence and video game violence and expressed that it is almost like a practice for “allowing them to simulate their crimes over and over again in the virtual world before taking the violence into the real world”. Many studies have shown that the aggressive nature of video games sets people on fire and they become less sensitive to violence. In other words, they learn to accept violent behavior as a norm.
Considering their age, fear factor is also important to mention. Media violence is likely to be associated with fear. Even though, fear differs by age. Signorielli (2005) found that “young children typically are more fearful of images that are fantastic, threatening, and just look scary; older children however, are more fearful of more realistic dangers”. In both ways, children will be haunted by horrible nightmares and might even become depressed. “Studies have shown that those people who watch effectively more TV are exaggerating and overestimate situations” (Gerbner 2002).
Apart from images, music videos contain dirty and violent lyrics which are presented in a positive way. Internet is maybe the most dangerous place for a young child to search. There is hardly any effective control online; children can be easily manipulated and taken advantage of.
It is a childish behavior to break rules. While the age warnings were created to deter young people from watching, it seems to work in the other way around. In fact, a great number of studies have detected that movies, video games and music videos which have age-restrictions are the most popular with underage children. Signorielli (2005) at one point even questioned whether “the idea of censorship poses a greater threat to them then that of violent television”.
In conclusion, people tend to concentrate only on physical violence without taking its psychological impacts into consideration. Violent content appearing in the media can lead to aggressive behavior, morbid fear and depression. Children cannot gain morals from any video games nor can get a better understanding of the world. Besides, parental supervision may not always work but it is indispensable for young children to put the new information into the right context. Thus, one should never underestimate the power of the media nor let children become victims of it.
LIST OF WORKS CITED
Bandura, Albert, Dorothea Ross, and Shelia A. Ross. “Transmission of Aggression Through Imitation of Aggressive Models.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 63. (1961): 575-582.
Gerbner, George, Larry Gross, Michael Morgan, Nancy Signorielli and James Shanahan. Growing up with Television: The Cultivation Perspective. Media effects: Advances in Theory and Research. 2nd ed. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates, 2002.
Signorielli, Nancy. Violence in the Media: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO Inc., 2005. Print.
Taylor, Charles. “Censorship is Not an Effective Way to Protect Children.” Salon Media Group (2001): 1- 4.