Viewing Violence in Mass Media and Aggression in Children
Media images bombard man’s every waking moment. Sources range from TV’s to computers, video games to movie players and more recently iphones and ipads, which can gain access to all types of uncensored media. These devices are found in most rooms of today’s homes and in all areas of people’s lives, such as shopping centers, gyms, doctor’s offices, schools and restaurants to name a few. Devices consume hours of people’s days and practically demand attention when a nearby device is in one’s visual field. Given the proliferation of these devices it is quite difficult to keep children from viewing the violence and violent images that flash across their screens. Do these images impact lives? Could they affect behavior? What about the behavior of children, who either inadvertently or intentionally see them? Observing violence in media both desensitizes and models destructive behavior for children; therefore, I argue there is a correlation between observing violence in media and aggressive behavior in children.
According to research led by Giacomo Rizzolatti, humans have mirror neurons (Myers, 2011). These mirror neurons provide a neural basis for imitation and observational learning and underlie the intensely social nature of man (Myers, 2011). In a now famous experiment, Albert Bandura had pre-school children observe an adult model punch, kick and scream at a large Bobo doll for 10 minutes. After taking the toys away from the children, they were each placed alone in the room with the Bobo doll. The children each imitated the behavior of the adult who lashed out at the doll down to using the same language and movements as the adult model (Myers, 2011). This experiment shows that children not only watch what adults and others do but they also imitate those moves and behaviors. Children quickly learn many things from watching television and other media sources, as well. A case in point would be observing that young children easily learn their ABC’s from repeatedly watching Sesame Street episodes. Watching violence in the media falls directly into the category of observational learning for children. In Florida, a 12-year-old boy killed his 6-year-old sister while imitating violent professional wrestling moves (Pearson & Wagner, 2011). In Knoxville, Tennessee, two teenage boys shot at cars and trucks at random, killing registered nurse, Aaron Hamel, and injuring another driver. The boys gave credit to a scene from the game “Grand Theft Auto III” as their inspiration for the shooting (Pearson & Wagner, 2011). These impressionable minds do not yet grasp the larger consequences of their actions and tend to see them as another type of “play”. Douglas Gentile and his colleagues studied more than 400 third to fifth graders for predicting future aggressive behaviors. After setting controls for existing differences in hostility and aggression, the researchers reported increased aggression in those heavily exposed to violent images on television, video and video games (Myers 2011). Given these examples, we can clearly see that children imitate others actions; for better or for worse.
A second correlation between violence in the media and aggression in children is that they become desensitized due to repeated exposure. Estimates cite that the average child in the US sees 8,000 murders depicted on television before he or she finishes elementary school (Aliprandini & Finley, 2011). By age 18, it is estimated that the average child has