Violent images in movies, TV, or computer games CAN act as triggers for aggression, says news report
'Violent TV, films and video games do increase violence'
Published by Eddie Wrenn: 29th August 2012
In this article Eddie Wrenn addresses the issue of the mass media and violence. Wrenn argues that high levels of violence in the media lead to higher levels of aggression. He presents recent researches that supports this view and discusses how parents and schools could help limit the amount of violence that children watch in today’s society.
The media has an enormous impact on people’s values, beliefs, and behaviours. The consequence of one element of media is that there are potential detrimental effects on the viewer. For instance, there has been a considerable amount of research into the relationships between the viewing of violent films, videos and TV programmes and aggressive behaviour, especially amongst children, that suggests there is a link between media violence and aggression (Comstock & Lindsey, 1975).
To determine whether or not violence in the media is a cause for aggressive behaviour the definition of violence will be discussed, followed by examples of different media forms and models that explain the influences of television violence, an evaluation of research and finally an overall conclusion of the subject in hand. In order to understand the effects media violence has on its audience, the term ‘violence’ must first be defined. Defining violence has proved to be a difficult task because there are several levels of violence (Gauntlett, 2005). For example, using abusive language may be deemed as an act of violence and aggression to some, but others may not view it as actual violence because using abusive language does not involve any form of physical contact. It is also important to look at the context in which the act of violence is acted upon, for instance, a pillow fight and punching another person are both forms of aggression, yet they are interpreted differently (Howitt, 1989). One way violence can be defined is as an act where an individual intentionally uses aggressive behaviour, both physically or psychologically to create fear and harm upon other individuals (Chaffee, 1972).
The media usually displays most acts of violence using a variety of mediums and different forms. The 21st century has seen an increase in technology whereby new and more complex forms of media have emerged. There has been an increase in immersion and interaction amongst mediums such as video games, television, mobile phones and the internet. For example, by using a mobile phone an individual may watch videos, listen to music, and use it as a means of communication (Livingstone et al, 2006). This post-modern society can have both a positive or negative affect especially as technology and the media have become more advanced and widespread. For example, technology can be used as a means of curing diseases or it may allow terrorist attacks to occur. Postmodernists fear that the media will become so overpowering that it will create reality whereby ‘the distinctions between image and reality no longer exist’ (Jones, 2002).
Several hypotheses have been offered to describe processes of influence that violent TV might have on a child’s behaviour. The following briefly describes some examples models that describe the influences that violence may have on a child’s behaviour. It is however, worth noting that no single process is likely to offer an adequate explanation (Bandura, 1965).
‘Model/Imitation’ is a model that was proposed by social learning theorists, such as Bandura who emphasize the 'observational learning' of particular kinds of aggression from a 'model'. Those who employ this argument see Film and TV characters as models from which children learn behaviour which may be imitated in everyday life. Simple imitation has been cited as the reason for violent behaviour. Another model is ‘Symbolic Modelling’ that