Relationship Between Media Violence and the Effects on Children

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A plethora of research has examined the relationship between media violence and the effects on children. Media violence is ubiquitous and comes in many forms, television and film, computer and video games, internet, music and radio and newspapers and magazines. However, the media that dominates the studies are television, then computer/video games and to a lesser degree music. Three types of evidence support the hypothesis that exposure to media violence is harmful to children. First there is anecdotes and case studies, then correlational studies and third the results of numerous experiments (Bernstein et al. 2006). However there are the sceptics that suggest the evidence is not conclusive in anecdotes and case studies, while correlations don’t mean causations and the experiments may not apply beyond the laboratory (Bernstein et al. 2006). Not all children are harmed by violent media, however one child harmed is one too many.

To look at the hypothesis that exposure to media violence is harmful to children, first look at it using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological approach. This approach demonstrates the overlapping ecological systems that operate together to influence what a person becomes as they develop. The individual, “with their biological and psychological characteristics” (Singleman & Rider 2008), is seen as rooted within the milieu of the microsystem (Jordan 2004). The connections between the microsystems are referred to as the mesosystem (Jordan 2004). While the social setting that influences a child’s development, but do not contain the individual, is the exosystem and the expansive cultural context that defines the child’s understanding of the influences in all the systems is the macrosystem (Jordan 2004). The individual and their family are in the microsystem, and the media is in the exosystem (Jordan 2004). The mesosystem connects the family with the individual and the family can offer ideas about violent media, such as discussing the violence as unacceptable, or worshiping the violent character. The connection can also be viewed as the domestic situation of the family in which differentially influence children, such as the socio-economic status (SES) of the family. Jordan (2004) suggests that children from low SES spend more time watching television and playing video games then children from higher SES. As demonstrated later the amount of time spent watching or using violent media exacerbates harmful effects on the child. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological approach demonstrates that media violence can be harmful to children if the areas within the system converge, operating together to create aggressiveness.

Bushman & Anderson (2001) make an analogy between smokers getting lung cancer and viewers becoming violent criminals. They suggest that not all smokers get lung cancer and not all viewers of violent media become violent criminals. However they do suggest that the chances of getting lung cancer increase as the person is subjected to more cigarettes. This is compared to the person viewing violent media, as they increase the viewing hours, the likelihood of aggressive behaviour increases. However not everyone that gets lung cancer is a smoker and not all aggressive people watch violent media (Bushman & Anderson, 2001). This analogy makes it appear very clear that increasing the time spent interacting with violent media, increases the risk of becoming a violent criminal.

A major alternative to explaining long-term effects of violent media is the desensitisation theory (Huesmann et al. 2003). This theory is based on the assumption that lack of response to violence indicates lack of response with planning and thinking about violence (Huesmann et al. 2003). The lack of response is as a result of “observing blood, gore and violence”, hence desensitising the violence according to Huesmann et al. (2003, p. 202). Although it would be unethical to come up with an experiment to test this theory and case studies of people...
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