Does Sex and Violence on Television Have a Negative Effect on Children?

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Does sex and violence on television have negative effects on children?

The issue that I am addressing is the effect of sex and violence in the media on children. As long as there has been television, there has been an association made between media and violence – children who repeated what they saw on cartoons leading to their death, teenagers injured while emulating a popular movie, and mass killings blamed on video games. Primarily this relationship has been assumed to be causal with television being the assumed central cause in violent or risky behavior. Once you begin delving into the roots of violent and risky behavior, however, the association between modeled violence and expressed violence becomes less and less obvious. Violence in society in general is complicated and requires unpacking so that each aspect of the roots of violence can be analyzed and ultimately discussed in a meaningful way, including acknowledging that the origins are just as layered and complex as the solutions.

Summary of Internet Information
I began looking into various studies and articles about violence in media to see what kind of information was already available on the subject. There were a number of points of view represented, however, none of them outright dismissed that there was some relationship between sex and violence in the media and violent behavior. The studies also generally agreed that the complexities of violent behavior may potentially be ultimately unknowable because of that complexity. What may drive one person to violence may have little to no effect on another or the level of exposure to images of sex and violence in combination with other influences, including parental and peer attitudes towards sex and violence, may be a stronger relationship than media influence alone.

The article “It’s not all sex and violence” by Agustín Fuentes set the tone for how I came to look at my research because it brought up the important point that sex and violence are over emphasized in modern culture and can give the false impression that sex and violence are at the very center of every human motivation rather than showing the reality that sex and violence are merely two aspects of the human experience, rather than central or common. The topics are scintillating and therefore more discussed.

I also included research done to determine the effect of three safe sex campaigns run on Netherlands television during the mid-1990’s in order to see if there were positive messages that were also being sent on television about sex and sexual behavior (“Can public campaigns effectively change psychological determinants of safer sex?”), an evaluation of three Dutch campaigns that determined that the campaigns were successful in their goals of increasing safe sex practices in the Netherlands. I wanted to see if positive messages about sex and sexual behavior also had an effect on teenagers and young adults as this could be associated back to imitating modeled behavior in general. The determination in the case of the Dutch safe sex campaigns was that effectiveness of the televised messages was related not only to the message itself, but also to the amount of exposure the subject had to the message. Those who were more exposed to the messages were more likely to engage in safe sex than those who were less exposed or not exposed at all.

In “Mass Media Effects on Violent Behavior” by Richard Felson discussed in detail the difficulties of studying the effects of media violence on children because it’s difficult to measure intent and the inherent issues present in building experiments that have the greatest possibility of delivering reasonable results. It was the most comprehensive and inclusive article that I read as it looked at a number of different methods of measuring media effects on children – ultimately demonstrating that there is a provable corollary between exposure to violence seen on television and later violent behavior,...
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