Media Influence on Children

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The influence of violent media on children and adolescents: a public-health approach Lancet 2005; 365: 702–10 Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK (Prof K D Browne PhD, C Hamilton-Giachritsis PhD) Correspondence to: Prof Kevin Browne, Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK k.d.browne@bham.ac.uk

Kevin D Browne, Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis

There is continuing debate on the extent of the effects of media violence on children and young people, and how to investigate these effects. The aim of this review is to consider the research evidence from a public-health perspective. A search of published work revealed five meta-analytic reviews and one quasi-systematic review, all of which were from North America. There is consistent evidence that violent imagery in television, film and video, and computer games has substantial short-term effects on arousal, thoughts, and emotions, increasing the likelihood of aggressive or fearful behaviour in younger children, especially in boys. The evidence becomes inconsistent when considering older children and teenagers, and long-term outcomes for all ages. The multifactorial nature of aggression is emphasised, together with the methodological difficulties of showing causation. Nevertheless, a small but significant association is shown in the research, with an effect size that has a substantial effect on public health. By contrast, only weak evidence from correlation studies links media violence directly to crime. The notion that violence in the media contributes to the development of aggressive behaviour has been supported by meta-analyses1 of relevant research.2,3 However, there is continuing debate about (1) methodological approaches used in the research and their generalisability, and (2) the extent to which media violence affects children and young people.4–8 This debate shows the typical divide between so-called media pessimists9 who believe that media violence can be very harmful to children and adolescents, and media Search strategy and selection criteria The search strategy for this review was designed to identify new articles on the effects of media violence on children and young people up to the age of 18 years. Therefore, the following search engines (which occasionally overlap) and dates were used: q ATLAS: Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts (ASSIA), BIDS, ERIC, FRANCIS, Medline, Science Citation Index, Social Services Abstracts, Web of Science/Web of Knowledge): 1998–2003. q Cambridge Scientific Abstracts: ASSIA, British Humanities Index, ERIC, Social Sciences Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts: 1998–2004 q ISI Web of Science: 1998–2003 q OVID: MEDLINE, EMBASE, BIOSIS Previews: 1998–2004 q PsychInfo 1998–2004 q Science Direct: 1998–2003 q Social Science Information Gateway: 1998–2003 q SwetsWise: 1998–2003 q TalisWeb Opac: 1998–2003 q TDNET: 1998–2003 The search terms included every combination of the words “media”, “television”, “film”, “video”, “song lyrics”, “radio”, “music”, “computer games”, “video games” AND “violence”, “crime”, “aggression” (eg, “media AND violence”, “computer games AND aggression”). Appropriate sources from the reference lists of these articles were also considered.

sceptics10,11 who claim that there is no reliable evidence to support this view. Ironically, this topic is regularly in the news headlines as an explanation of violent crime by young people. The idea that some individuals are more susceptible than others to the effects of violence in the media has provided a balance between these two extreme viewpoints,12 with some researchers emphasising the role of social and environmental experiences to explain individual differences. There are many publications about the effects of media violence, mainly from North America. However, few investigations have considered the laboratory (experimental)...
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