Violence in Media
Researchers from Ohio State did a study where they showed one group of 8-12 year olds a movie where the characters used guns and another group a movie where the characters did not use guns. When the group that watched the movie with guns were handed a real, unloaded gun, they pulled the trigger on average 2-3 times more than the group that was not shown the movie (LoBue). The idea that violence shown through media is the source of increased viciousness in children is an idea that has been heavily debated and researched. However, with a rapid rise in brutal acts like shootings, assaults, murders, etc. there must be a reason why these are becoming more common. The evidence gathered from studies points to the media as the root cause for an increase in this brutal behavior. Therefore, violence in media should be limited because it impacts children, making them more aggressive.
Increased exposure of children to violent video games can make these children start seeing reality as a violent video game. In these video games, often times they are simulating real life through a character controlled by the player. According to the Gale Student Resources in Context online research portal, “repeated exposure to violent video games over an extended period of time could affect how players perceive and react to real-life events and encourage further aggression in these situations” (“Video”). Lately, video games have gotten even better at imitating the actions and behavior of humans. Just imagine this, you spend hours per day playing a violent video game, pretending to be a character in a game. Once you turn off the game, how does one remember that they aren’t just in a game anymore and that it is actually real life? It gets worse when children become addicted to these games, spending more time playing video games rather than having real face-to-face interactions. The longer they spend exposed to this kind of violence, the more the definite line between a video game and reality begins to blur.
If video games demonstrating aggressive behavior were restricted from children, our world would experience a decrease in the number of violent incidents occurring. This is due to the fact that children are easily influenced because they are just beginning to form their own identity based on what they experience. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, violent video games are criticized because they set a bad example for children to follow (“Video”). Children follow what they see, and if all they see is violence, they are bound to follow that. Admittedly, some studies have found that children find a type of psychological relief from media violence, which makes them less aggressive (Cutler). However, this is not the case because the General Aggression Model (GAM) showed that “players who already exhibited a tendency toward hostile behavior were more likely to become increasingly aggressive after playing a violent video game” (“Video”). Therefore, children who already were more aggressive on average did not in fact find relief through video games; instead, the violence they witnessed contributed to an even greater increase in their vicious behavior. Children who repeatedly see brutal acts occur eventually get accustomed to violence and start to think it is normal to behave that way. According to a study done by Social Psychological and Personality Science, the more that children believe violence is normal, the more they are likely to engage in aggressive behavior against others (“Seeing”). This idea is also seen in Lord of the Flies, where the boys on the island had continued exposure to vicious behavior. This exposure started to alter the way the boys perceived violence. By the end of the story, all the boys attacked and brutally murdered the character, Simon (Golding). Since the boys kept witnessing violent behavior, they believed what they just did to Simon was normal and they felt no remorse for their actions. Their increased aggression was due to all the savageness they had observed on the island.
Aggression shown in children can be linked to the increase of violence shown in the media, so there should be a limit to the amount of violence children can witness. To reiterate, continued exposure to violence can have many detrimental effects on one’s mind and behavior. In some of the worst cases, children were not able to differentiate between real life and a video game. The normalization of violence in children’s mind leads to an increase in hostile behavior and vicious crimes. So next time you read a book, watch a movie, or play a video game that demonstrates violence, I urge you to think about the negative effect it has on you.