Media Violence Turning Good Kids Bad: Fact or Fiction?
Cultivation as defined by George Gerbner, “is the building and maintenance of stable images of life in society,” (Electronic Storyteller). It is this idea of cultivation that researchers are becoming more and more concerned with when it comes to media violence and the effect it is having on our culture; is it possible that video games, TV shows, and expensively produced films are influencing our behaviors and decisions? This has been a topic of debate since program broadcasting began in 1946. There have been millions of dollars donated and thousands of research studies and experiments conducted to see if this cultivation theory of Gerbner’s was, in fact, true. Is Gerbner accurate in saying that through the images and ideas we express in our media we have cultivated a society of insecurity and fear; aggression and dependence? What is media violence really doing to our society?
Media violence goes beyond the common stereotype of being limited to prime time shows and ‘R’ rated films. No, media violence can be found everywhere from food advertisements to children’s cartoons. However, many believe that the type of violence found in these commercials or cartoons is just for fun and kids know that it is only for entertainment and is pretend; is that really the case, however? In a study conducted by Kendeou and colleagues, it was discovered that young children focus most of their viewing attention on things they can relate to in the real world, in other words, they focus solely on the violence and forget about the character intention or internal plot of the show (Cartoon Violence). In addition, Gerbner stated that most children’s cartoons displayed over 30 episodes of violent acts per hour of television watched (The Killing Screens). In another study performed by Matthews and colleagues, it was concluded that heavy exposure to intense media violence by non-aggressive children lowered neural activity in the frontal cortex of the brain in a majority of the subjects (Cartoon Violence). The frontal cortex is the region of the brain in which attention and self-control are controlled. So before you turn on Cartoon Network and leave your child, remember that he or she is more likely to see five times more violence in those so-called “harmless” programs then he or she would in a prime time show.
The influence of media violence is neither limited to cartoons nor is its effects only displayed in children. In an article published in the Harvard Mental Health Letter, a research study was performed to understand the effects of media violence on young adults and whether viewing media violence alone or in groups affected cognitive and social behavior. The data collected from this research is very interesting, it is found that viewing of violent media and images not only provoked aggressive thoughts, but also led to high blood pressure and increase heart rate in young adults exposed to heavy amounts of violent films or images. In addition, it was also found that the viewing of violent images or media in a group setting created a stronger sense of aggression and stirred feelings of irritation. Also, it was also concluded that people with a highly aggressive personalities were more likely to be stimulated or influenced by media violence. In another study, subjects broke into groups one group was exposed to violent films continuously for four days and then were randomly provoked or confronted by the researchers with violent behavior or demeaning comments. The other group did not view violent films, but were still provoked in the same manner and the third group was exposed to violent behavior but not provoked. The researchers found that the group who viewed the violent films but were not provoked displayed the same physiological and psychological effects as the groups who were physically provoked. This study indicated that media violence creates unconscious feelings of aggression and...
References: Anderson, Craig A., and Brad J. Bushman. "The Effects of Media Violence on Society." Science 295.5564 (2002).
Blumberg, Fran C., Kristen P. Bierwirth, and Allison J. Schwartz. "Does Cartoon Violence Beget Aggressive Behavior in Real Life? An Opposing View." Early Childhood Educational Jounral 36.2 (2008): 101-04.
Feshbach, Seymour, and June Tangney. "Television Viewing and Aggression: Some Alternative Perspectives." Perspectives on Psychological Science 3.5 (2008): 387-89.
Miller, Michael C. "Does Violence in the Media Cause Violent Behavior?" Harvard Mental Health Letter 18.3 (2001): 5-8.
Nabi, Robin L., and Karyn Riddle. "Personality Traits, Television Viewing, and the Cultivation Effect." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 52.3 (2008): 327-48.
The Electronic Storyteller. Dir. George Gerbner. 1997. DVD. Media Education Foundation.
The Killing Screens. Dir. George Gerbner. 1994. DVD. Media Education Foundation.
Watts, Heather. "Young People and Media Violence." Teaching Artist Journal 1.4 (2003): 240-41.
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