The Media Violence Debate

Published: 2021-07-01 04:06:46
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Category: Violence, Media, Media Violence

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Television and video games are favorite ways teenagers spend their leisure hours. Parents and teens themselves have wondered about their effects because of numerous concerns raised with regards to the negative influences that these form of entertainment bring. Many of today’s children grow up with a television at home or even in their own rooms and there have been studies dedicated to the analysis of their impact of a young child growing up to adolescence. Young children are heavily influenced by television and video games, many of which are educational.
While there are fun educational shows and games that benefit educational development for young children, the choice of video games and television shows are different when they grow up to be teenagers. This is when the problem begins. The negative influences of television and video games are aplenty. Flipping through the channels would surely show situations of violence, sex scenes and explicit conversations, alcohol and drug use, cursing and verbal obscenities, bad body image reflections, and more.
Visiting a games arcade would not only hurt one’s ears because of the noise of gunshots and obscene shouts from the games played, but also expose one to bloody and highly violent ways of killing people. These situations can affect teenagers differently. With some good things that can be learned from many television shows (documentaries and educational shows, for example) and video games (motor skills development), the negative effects of these forms of media outweighs the positive ones. This paper aims at discussing the effects of media particularly on the debate that has been going on with the ill-effects of media violence.

Moreover, it provides a bird’s eye view and analysis on the influences of media violence especially on children. Relevant Research and Authors Featured in The Guardian on June 2001, Rushdie's “Reality TV: A Dearth of Talent and the Death of Morality” has caught the attention of many moralists who agree on Rushdie's idea and views on the prevalence and existence of reality TV today. Rushdie has presented so many points in his essay that I fully agree on. First, reality television shows are hard to avoid. Their ratings are a proof how people patronize these kinds of shows.
Look how many millions of texters would send in their votes for their favorite “American Idol. ” The success of many reality shows in the 1990's made way for networks to think of more programs – the weirder, the better because people had the tendency to watch reality programs that exude the abnormal. Moreover, these reality shows that feature people who have no talent at all, such as MTV’s hit Jersey Shore, contrast to wholesome programs in the past and yes, some modern ones, that showcase celebrities with real talents or programs that are worth our precious time.
Marshall McLuhan is not known by many but to those who are into the field of media, he is considered to be the first father and leading prophet of the electronic age. This Canadian born writer and critic wrote mostly on the topic of understanding the effects of technology as it is related to the popular culture and how this affected and influenced man and its relationship to one another and to the community as a whole.
The phrase “the medium is the message” was started by McLuhan and stood to mean the form of a medium is embedded in the message itself thereby forming a correlation on how any message is being understood thus influencing change as time goes by. McLuhan  asserts that “that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. ” Furthermore, he emphasizes that any newspaper article or television program does not have any content at all unless the people or the society reacts to them.
The messages that are presented by oral, print and electronic media are still depending how it would influence the society as a whole and a person in particular. How the contents or messages come through changes the attitude of the viewers or readers. The messages that each kind of media exposes are dependent on person’s view. He compares movies and television in their manner of viewing and content saying that the visual presentation presents different types of influences. Media as a vessel of influential messages is an essential point to consider to every person who is into the broadcast and print industry.
Video Games Violence
Video games are a lucrative business anywhere in the world today, claiming US$ 10 billion in sales in the United States alone in one year. However, with this increasing sales come serious concerns about their effects on players, especially teenagers. Researches have been conducted to show the effects of video games on teenagers. Results prove that there is indeed a high possibility and likelihood of aggressive and violent behaviors to be manifested in some adolescents who frequently play violent video games.
With these findings, public policy options for limiting distribution of these kind of games are being created; however, the creation and spread of more video games seem too many too stop. In 2006, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) reported their findings on studies conducted on teenagers who play violent games. These young adolescents show long-lasting effects of abnormal brain functions which include intense emotional arousals and a decrease in their concentration, control, and focus.
Television Violence
As a child becomes a teenager, his/her hours in front of the television lessens because socialization outdoors, demands of schoolwork, and the lure of other media forms (music, video games, computers, and the Internet) would take a huge percentage of idle time. Watching television is considered to be a relaxing activity which needs less concentration. Rehnstrand (2005) writes that teenagers tend to watch television when they have nothing to do. Yet, even if time spent watching television lessens during these years, parents still have to know what their children are watching
Television in moderation is not bad at all. In fact, pre-schoolers can start learning through educational shows, grade school children can learn from nature shows, and adults can be informed with current news. Television can be a source of entertainment as well. However, with the good things, disadvantages cannot be negated. Studies show that teenagers who spend more than four hours daily in front of the television become overweight. They become either more aggressive or become too fearful. Moreover, teenagers develop gender stereotyping and vices from many shows.
Direct Effects of Media Violence
Researches and studies by professionals in the field of health and psychology have revealed that exposure to media portrayals of violence increases aggressive behavior not only in children but adolescents and adults as well. Reports by mental health institutes state that television, movie, music, the Internet, videogames and printed materials contribute to aggressive behaviors of individuals who are exposed to them. The violence depicted in them is considered risk factors to the developing child, adolescents and to the stability of their families.
Individuals who are exposed to media violence often see the world as a sinister place as depicted by television programs. Even cartoon programs for kids are found to contain violence indirectly through their dialogues and actions. Kamalipour et al (2001) stated that with the advent of videocassette sales and rentals, pay-per-view TV, cable TV, videogames, and online interactive media, many more children and adolescents have greater access to media with violent content than had ever been available in previous decades. These depictions make young viewers numb to the ill-effects of violence, aggression, and develop in them fear.
Recommendations of Filter Models for Television and Video Games
Filtering is a way for parents or others who object to violence in mass media to control what is being viewed and played in their homes. However, it is also categorized by some as censorship. Censorship is an essential and expected element of how people interact instead of cultivating a negative and separate interruption in the regular flow of communication.
The major problem centers on where to identify between what is acceptable and which is not, or who is approved and on what criteria to follow. Technology has come up with many types of filtering models, all with one purpose: to opt out parts of a movie or TV program or video game that is not positive for children and teenagers especially. V-chip is used for television receivers that block programs and intended for parents' use for their children . Another is ClearPlay which provides families the choice to watch movies with less graphic violence, nudity, explicit sex, and profanity.
Parental controls and guidance are still deemed to be the best models in filtering violence and other undesirable parts of media. Self-control and discipline are also considered to be essential values that one should have to be able to practice responsibility over the violence depicted different ways. Stimulating or “Cue” Theories Tate and McConnell (2001) mention about the cue theory, which stated that when angry people are exposed to television or games violence, those portrayals signal to them to behave aggressively.
The elements in the portrayal (guns, particular kinds of characters, etc. ) serve as cues. When these cues are later encountered in real life, viewers are reminded of the violence, and this reminder increases the likelihood that they will behave aggressively. Viewers who identify with the aggressor in the media will be more likely to aggress in real life when presented with a similar situation to that of the media aggressor. And when the media portray violence as having successful outcome, viewers are more likely to be cued to try aggression as a strategy in real life.
Catharsis Hypothesis
This hypothesis states that "If you buy a punching bag, or release your aggression by playing Quake, or by screaming, then you will be less violent and aggressive in day-to-day life, having released your aggression. " According to Greenfield (1984), "many professionals on this field begged to disagree to this as there are other hypotheses that negate its formation. However, research testing this catharsis hypothesis found that children who are subjected to media violence showed more overt aggression that analysts blame on lowered inhibitions. More researches show that most deadly effect of media violence is making people numb to the real violence in life.
Cultivation Hypothesis
The cultivation hypothesis was an approach developed by Professor George Gerbner who used 'Cultural Indicators' to study whether and how watching television or playing video games may influence viewers' ideas of what the everyday world is like. Theorists assert that television and video games has long term effects that are indirect but significant. Gerbner further argues in his theory that television is responsible for shaping viewer's concepts and ideas of social reality.
In addition, this theory proposes that mass media is a vital socializing agent that make television watchers believe in the version of reality that it exhibits. This particular theory asserts study findings that exposure to media violence through television, the Internet, and video games greatly influence teenagers’ aggressive behavior. Young children tend to imitate and follow what they see and hear and this theory becomes accurate in their limitations concerning media violence. In addition, it proposes that media violence provides children ideas and views of a world that is really bad and hostile in reality.
Considering gender issues when talking about media violence is a serious task that many media watchers are identifying. However, there are also issues that media violence that depicts women has just the same effects of media violence as a whole. Feminists view this differently since they adhere to the fact that there is a grave impact of the degree of media violence if it consists of women issues.
Media Influence
Media is known to be one source of a steady hindrance in the communication among families, individuals, and society in general. It has played a significant role in shaping and portraying opinions and viewpoints of the public, forming a bond between the nations to the people while reproducing the total image of society. Criticisms as early as the middle of the 20th century suggested that media was able to lessen and restrict a person’s capacity to think and act independently. Occasionally, this is because of the influence suggestive of the many telescreens and printed writings. The media has indeed a very clear social and cultural effect upon society.
This is can be explained upon their capacity to p and touch a huge audience with a strong and influential message. Marshall McLuhan (1964) says “the medium is the message” as a tool of expounding how the distribution of a message can almost always be more vital than the content of the message itself. It is by the convincing power of media like television, radio, and print that messages p their target audiences. Television and radio broadcasting, for example, have a huge volume of control over what the public watches and hears and the frequency they are viewed.
This is an important aspect of traditional media that is challenged by changing the way the audience participates. The Internet today also has made a space for more mixture of opinions in the political, social, and cultural realms and an increased level of participation as well.
Media Violence in Reality TV
The reinvention of reality TV into a more horrible genre is proven by how such sports documentaries are programmed. Sometimes, some programs get too out of bound when the life of participants is being put out for the sake of fun.
And it is gruesome how these participants are willing to risk their lives for the money at stake and maybe a shot at stardom, if lucky. In the past decade, we have witnessed how television drama has turned from wholesome to violent and sexually explicit. Moreover, the comedy is becoming worse with puns obviously intended (Halloran, 1975). Along with this, reality TV has turned into a genre that many critics of media assert showcases more violence, more competition, more hurtful episodes, more vanity, and more sexuality as a version of reality.
All these are offered to an audience who are willing to gobble these all up. It is a reality as well that many people enjoy reality TV shows as evidenced with the constant ratings that show business is doing well. The reasons behind this loyal patronage of reality shows are because people tend to identify themselves with the participants, they enjoy the competition, they are thrilled with the drama that are spiced in these shows (Earles et al, 2002). For the producing networks, it is not at all a sweat to get participants who are willing to undergo such rigid or too easy tasks.
The lure of money and instant fame is too tempting to pass. Reality TV shows abound because of the pull it has on the audience share. However, many analysts agree that these kinds of shows that are being aired nowadays are getting ethically and morally questionable - compared to the reality TV series that were harmless and outright wholesome. Furthermore, reality TV shows clearly idolize and worship superficial human aspects like body and facial beauty. This becomes a very bad example for the youth who make up a big bulk of the audience share.
Reports say that 3 out of 4 teenagers have reality shows as their favorite TV shows (Rushdie, 2001). Is reality television altering our values in a negative way or is just a reflection of already existing values? Definitely these shows generally impacts audiences in a negative way. In fairness for those shows who do not intend to exude negativism, they still do so. Although subtle or subconsciously, these shows are to blame for the erosion of ethics and morals especially among the young audiences who also enjoy the competition and vanity being portrayed in many of these types of programs.
Parental guidance cannot seem to curtail such viewings and minors are taking a peek and sample of the “badness” involved reality shows. Yes, they entertain audiences because the plots excite the viewers. Remember that real people are writing the scripts and thinking of the plots. The production team is further made of real people. Therefore it follows that the values of the creators are shown, directly or indirectly, in their programs. Graphic Novels as an Agent of Media Violence The American comic book took shape in the late 1930s with the introduction of Superman and then Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America and more.
Arriving at the end of the Depression and ruing the first few weeks of World War II, comics provided cheap, thrilling entertainment that appealed to both the young and the soldiers (Rehnstrand, 2005). Comic books became a very influential and popular element of the entertainment world. As the medium progressed, it embraced a wide variety of genres like romance, horror, crime, science fiction, war, humor and adventure. Comic book sales soared up after World War II but suffered a setback in the mid-fifties brought about by anti-comic book hysteria.
The Comic Books
Authority whipped up a lot of no-noes on the plots and illustrations. The medium rebounded back in the 1960's this time with a brand new style of comic story telling. The late 1960's brought about the start of today's graphic novels which disregards the restrictions of the Comic code? More and more content was created and marketed as graphic novels. 1986 was a breakthrough year when two critically acclaimed bestselling books were published as graphic novels: Maus, and Watchmen. The late nineties introduced Manga, a type of graphic novel from Japan that was accepted warmly in the United States.
Today, like their counterpart in prose, graphic novels cover every conceivable genre including fiction, biography, history, journalism, education, crime, horror, fantasy, romance, adventure, memoir, humor, politics, and many more. After a century of growth, the comics that once started for amusement in newspapers have matured and are beginning to enjoy a place in the literary world.
Television and video games can be good sources of education and entertainment for anybody at any age or gender. However, teenage is considered to be a crucial age when an individual is quite adamant to become an adult or remain a child. The influence of media on teenagers has resulted on many emotional, social, and psychological dilemmas. Studies and research have been dedicated to analyzing the effect of media, particularly television and video games on teenagers. According to Rhenstrand (2005), playing video games is known to heighten the aggressive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of teenagers. Video games can be more harmful than violent television shows or movies since they are more interactive, requiring the player to identify with the aggressive character.
Some scientific studies state that the fewer teenagers play video games or watch television, the less aggressive they are. Attention has been centered on the concern of television and video games’ portrayal of violence, vices (smoking, drugs, and alcohol), and sex. With violence, television is passing the viewing of hurting and killing while video games needs the active participation of players. It is recommended that more research would be conducted on the behavioral outcomes of interactions on violence and sex in video games and the implications of passive participation of teenagers while watching television.
However, there should be careful and strict guidelines that the viewing public should follow in order to ensure that their influences would be beneficial, especially for the young viewers. The influence is so great that it has made changes in the way people act and think. These media forms are here to stay, for sure. Let us just hope that it will be innovated to be used as an instrument of change for the better and not for worse.

Earles KA, R Alexander, M Johnson, J Liverpool, and M McGhee. 2002. Media influences on children and adolescents: violence and sex". Journal of the National Medical Association. 94 (9): 797-801.
Greenfield, Patricia Marks. 1984. Mind and media: the effects of television, video games, and computers. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Halloran JD. 1975. "The Mass Media and Violence. " Forensic Science. 5. 3: 209-17.
Kamalipour, Yahya R. , and Kuldip R. Rampal. 2001. Media, Sex, Violence, and Drugs in the Global Village. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
McLuhan, M. 1964. Understanding media; The extensions of man. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Rehnstrand, R. 2005. The longitudional effects of media violence (television and video games) on violence in children into adulthood.
Starred paper (M. S. )--St. Cloud State University. Rushdie, Salman. 2001. Reality TV: A Dearth of Talent and the Death of Morality. The Guardian. Tate, E. and McConnell, K. 2001. The mass media and violence from McKie, Craig and Benjamin Singer, (eds. ) Communications in Canada Society, 5th edition. Toronto: Thompson Educational (TEP)

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