The Role of Media Violence in American Society

Authors: Jeff Meyers, Chris Parsell, Leah Agnew

Lacy Jeror, Ryan Cyr, Alex Zimmerman

Thesis:

There is overwhelming evidence that the media affects viewers by encouraging violent behavior through desensitization, cultivating fearful and pessimistic attitudes, and diminishes their creative capacity. 

 

Description:

 

“Television, movies, music, and interactive games are powerful learning tools, and highly influential media. The average American child spends as much as 28 hours a week watching television, and typically at least an hour a day playing video games or surfing the Internet. Several more hours of each week are spent watching movies and videos, and listening to music. These media can, and often are, used to instruct, encourage, and even inspire. But when these entertainment media showcase violence, particularly in a context which glamorizes or trivializes it, the lessons learned can be destructive.” (www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/jstmtevc.htm)    

 

Those involved with the growing issue of media violence are the general audience, and media producers. The key players are the young viewers; who are easily influenced by their surroundings, the government; who can play an active role in reducing and censoring the media, and the parents; who can control what and how much violence their children are exposed to. Violence in our society is an important and ongoing issue being battled by both congress and media entrepreneurs. The question often at stake is whether the media is truly one of the main sources of the majority of crime in the U.S. today. While most say the answer is yes, there are many other factors that influence the crime rate. Some of those factors being parental guidance, relationships, education and social status.

Analysis:

 

Statistical information seems to prove in many cases that the media is bombarding our youth with violent images. “More than twenty years of research has led us to a consensus that watching televised violence increases children’s aggressiveness and desensitizes them to the effects and implications of violence, and to solidity of the agreement among respected scientists that televised violence is harmful nullifies arguments to the contrary by the television industry.” (www.duke.edu/~cars/cbill3.html) The youth exposed to large amounts of video gaming, Internet surfing, and television are more likely to imitate what they see. When encountered with a serious conflict, they will revert to violence as a solution.  Therefore, to raise a less aggressive society, one must intervene through teaching less aggressive behavior in crucial learning periods of a child’s life.

 

Violent T.V shows or movies are more visually stimulating and easier to export out of the U.S to other countries due to little needed verbal translation. The fact that violent media is a big money maker can be a major reason as to why the entertainment business is seeking alternative reasons for why there is violence in America. For example, CBS president Howard Stringer blames gun control as the reason for violence as opposed to the media. (www.geocities.com/bigmike_75/aessays/a71.html) Much like the tobacco industries being the only ones to tell us that smoking isn’t bad for us, the entertainment industry is the only one trying to claim that violent media does not cause violent people.

 

Parental role in media violence and youth is also an area of issue. A child’s aggressive behavior, communication skills and problem solving abilities can be linked with the quality of their family atmosphere. Children learn by the examples, which are set by role models. “The typical Preschooler who watches about two hours of cartoons daily will be exposed to 10,000 violent incidents per year.”

( www.aap.org/advocacy/shifrin898.html ) Much of these acts will carry with the child and could be acted out in later years. Parents need to play an active role in their children’s lives. They need to be aware of what their children are viewing on T.V, what video games they are playing, and what they are searching for on the Internet.

 

The government is working to reduce the violence in America caused by the media.  They have passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which includes a “Parental Choice in Television Programming” section.  In this section there are prescribed procedures for the establishment of a television rating code, and procedures for newly manufactured television sets to include a mechanism to block programs called the V-Chip.  Although the government was establishing a ratings code, they allowed television media to regulate themselves.  This self-regulation is much less severe than if the government were to rate shows, and more violence is being allowed to pass at lower ratings.

 

Interpretation:

 

The US Government is stepping in to regulate the television industry.  This shows a correlation between violence in America and violence on TV.  The rating system that the government has implemented on television shows does not prevent violence from being aired.  This is because of the First Amendment Rights given to media entities.  According to the National Parent Information Network “When children watch television, they are physically passive, yet mentally alert.  Their minds are ripe for absorbing ideas, information, and values.”  (www.npin.org/library/pre1998/n00154/n00154.html)  Children are not mentally mature or capable enough to distinguish what is morally right or wrong.  This makes young children capable of easily being influenced by what is on TV.  By regulating the media, a step is being taken to help reduce the amount of violent behavior that is portrayed.

 

Parents also contribute to the fact that television causes violence in children.  They are not aware of the V-Chip’s abilities to block violent media, and if they are, most parents would not know how to program it.  By not actively monitoring usage and explaining to children the difference between entertainment and reality, children can develop false impressions of reality.  The misinterpretations of reality tend to negate what the government is trying to accomplish through legislation.

 

Evaluation:

 

We feel that the facts above prove that parents are unknowingly contributing to the very real issue of media violence have a direct role in real-life violence.  Through parental education on this subject, along with more government involvement, we can reduce the influence that entertainment violence has on our children.  We also feel that parents need to use television, game, and movie ratings to actively monitor what their children watch.  Parents should take the time to teach children the differences between what they see in the media and real life.  The government needs to completely take over the rating system and regulate it more thoroughly.  The voluntary system does not seem to be doing enough to curb media violence.  The government must also impose stricter regulations and penalties for entities that don’t follow these regulations.  This will eventually reduce the risk of children becoming violent from the images they see around them everyday in the media.

 

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