Research on violent television and films, video games, and music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts. The effects appear larger for milder than for more severe forms of aggression, but the effects on severe forms of violence are also substantial (r = .13 to .32) when compared with effects of other violence risk factors or medical effects deemed important by the medical community (e.g., effect of aspirin on heart attacks). The research base is large; diverse in methods, samples, and media genres; and consistent in overall findings. The evidence is clearest within the most extensively researched domain, television and film violence. The growing body of video-game research yields essentially the same conclusions.
Short-term exposure increases the likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions. Recent large-scale longitudinal studies provide converging evidence linking frequent exposure to violent media in childhood with aggression later in life, including physical assaults and spouse abuse. Because extremely violent criminal behaviors (e.g., forcible rape, aggravated assault, homicide) are rare, new longitudinal studies with larger samples are needed to estimate accurately how much habitual childhood exposure to media violence increases the risk for extreme violence.
Well-supported theory delineates why and when exposure to media violence increases aggression and violence. Media violence produces short-term increases by priming existing aggressive scripts and cognitions, increasing physiological arousal, and triggering an automatic tendency to imitate observed behaviors. Media violence produces long-term effects via several types of learning processes leading to the acquisition of lasting (and automatically accessible) aggressive scripts, interpretational schemas, and aggression-supporting beliefs about social behavior, and by reducing individuals' normal negative emotional responses to violence (i.e., desensitization).
The Influence of Media Violence on Youth
In the era of technological progress the internet, television, video game systems, and entertainment media became very popular among children and adolescents. They play an important role in the development and education of today’s youth. But along with positive influence they have negative side expressed by media violence. Most of the video materials consumed by children contain considerable amounts of violence. This is a huge problem of today’s youth as almost every family, technologically equipped, spends a lot of time playing video games or watching movies with inappropriate content. Scientists are concerned about the problem. They examine the influence of violent video materials on children and the changes media violence develops in the behavior of the youth. As a result, numerous researches show that exposure to violence on television or video games causes increases in aggression. So, how does media violence influence our youth? Such factors as psychological level, family, friends, and school can help explain the problem.
Playing video games and watching movies take a huge time period of children’s everyday life.
American children spend over five hours a day consuming various types of media. The same situation is in Europe and Asia. Children perceive everything they watch or hear very closely and literally. They act as monkeys, trying to repeat every word or gesture as in the movie or video game. When a child is watching educational or entertaining movie, copying certain behavior is positive, the same cannot be said about video materials that contain violence. In this case a child has more positive attitudes regarding aggressive solutions to problems. He perceives aggression as a normal way of behavior. For him a game is a model of social world, where people act and think in a hostile way, and the more aggressive and cruel you are, the more success you have in life. After regular review of media materials, a child or adolescent has a wrong, negative conception of the world and starts thinking aggressively, which can greatly influence child’s behavior in future. Usually, when people are watching video containing violence they experience a negative emotional reaction to cruelty and aggression, expressed by increased heart rate, blood pressure, or a headache. Repeated consumptions of such materials dull people’s negative feelings, increase pleasure and interest, making violent actions normal. As a result, repeated consumptions of violence lead to learning the aggressive actions or ways of thinking on the automatic level. And, when a similar situation occurs in reality, a child will act as he learned in the movie – aggressively. So, media violence has a huge psychological influence on children. They cannot distinguish real and virtual worlds yet, hence, wrongly perceive the situations from videos as such that can be used in real life. It primarily concerns children that have inclination to aggressive behavior since their birth. The combination of “bad” genes and media violence can have crucial effect on a child. So, it is very important to pay special attention to the child’s psychological state and select such video materials that will not be harmful for him. This can only be achieved with the help of parents.
Parents play an important role in the life of their children.
They bring them up, educate, and show how to live the life in a right way. But sometimes instead of showing the right way they show the wrong one. It concerns, first of all, the atmosphere in the family and style of life of parents. They can have a habit of watching television programs or movies containing violence and aggressive scenes. Very often parents emotionally, even violently, discuss programs, argue without paying attention to a child. If it happens from time to time a child has an impression of how the adults live and thinks that cruelty on television as well as ill atmosphere in the family is a right way of life. This wrong perception of the world and relationships can change a child’s attitude toward violence. He will act as his parents and will think that doing harm is the best way
of solving problems. Parents can actively participate in the development of the aggression in children by allowing them playing violent video games. These games attract youth greatly. In comparison to movies or television programs they are more interactive and immersive. Players of violent video games are engaged in virtual violent world, where they act in an aggressive way. Usually players have a control over other characters, receive rewards for cruel actions, and perfect their violent behavior. Children love this way of entertainment because they feel their advantages and strengths. When children play violent games every day cruel methods, used in games, become a part of their behavior in real life. The older they become the more convinced they are that violence is the best way to achieve something in life. Parents do not just allow violent video games, but play them together with their kids, making the situation even worth. Children perceive their parents as authority, model of behavior. That is why it is so important when adults control inappropriate material in the house and keep it far away from their children.
Along with parents, friends and neighborhood influence children when dealing with media violence. Friends spend a lot of time together and have a lot of common ways of entertainment. One of them is playing video games and watching movies containing violence. Children are more enthusiastic and inspired when they play or watch something in a company of friends. In this way they can transfer the game life into reality and repeat the actions of favorite video heroes with friends. It enhances a bad influence of media violence. Instead of making friendship stronger and getting the best things out of it children practice fighting and violent competition. They often aggressively communicate, develop brutal traits of character, and treat themselves not as friends but as enemies. Besides, not all the children are interested in violent video games or movies. There are a lot of children and adolescents who devote their free time to books, educational videos, and other useful ways of entertainment. But being in a company with children who adore violent video games, they come under their influence. This situation is very popular among teenagers who usually do what others seem cool or popular. And if somebody, for example, will not play a violent video, he will just fall out of the company. Usually children are afraid to be rara avis and try to match their friends’ interests. This is the biggest mistake. It is necessary to continue one’s own way and do what you, not others, like the most. In this way a child shows his personality. He is not afraid to lose the authority among his friends. On the contrary, he is developing his best qualities which will help to go through life without anger and violence. Real friends do not obtrude their interests in playing violent video games on others.
The company that influences a child can be not only in his neighborhood but also at school. A place where children get knowledge can be a source of spreading media violence and influence adolescents greatly. During classes children can watch videos or read materials which contain violence. Teachers are to explain each material with special attention as it may contain violent moments which kids can interpret too literally. Besides, violence can be present in teacher’s behavior. In all schools it is forbidden to use any violent actions toward children, otherwise a teacher will take the responsibility for doing harm. But still there are exceptions. Also aggressive behavior takes place among schoolmates. Very often children at school are divided into groups that have leaders. Not all the leaders behave in a proper way and use their authority humiliating others. So, school can have a big influence on the development of cruelty and violence in children.
Nowadays video game systems and entertainment media are very popular and accessible among youth. Entertainment material that contains violence is of special interest and that is why is considered dangerous for children who devote a lot of their free time to it. The negative influence of media violence can be explained with the help of such factors as psychological level, family, friends, and school. Each factor shows that video materials that contain violence and cruelty greatly change children’s behavior, making it aggressive and brutal. While a child does not have his character developed yet, it is very easy to affect this process and direct it to the wrong way. That is why it is so important when parents and friends control inappropriate material, protecting a child from the influence of media violence.