The issue of media and the increase of violent crimes has been a contentious issue over the years leading to a number of researches trying to identify the correlation between the two. This is especially the case with regard to electronic media due to its visual power over our children. Nonetheless, this issue is not very recent as some of the researches conducted dates back to the 1960s with the proliferation of television as a way of life in our society. Most of these researches identified a positive correlation between exposure to television violence and increase in violent crimes in the society. These violent crimes range from robbery, murder, sexual assault, and homicide, among others.
Among the first studies of this nature were conducted by Eron in 1960, whereby he assessed the aggressiveness of 875 children in relation to the television programmes they watched. During the initial research, the age of the children was between seven and eight years. Ten years later, Eron did the second research with the same sample and found an even stronger correlation of the two variables. Most of the children who watched violent television programs were likely to be convicted of violent crimes during their adolescent years (Russell & Jarvis, 2003, p. 146).
With the media being a part of our lives, the issue of moral standards and ethics needs to be critically analyzed to ensure that it’s used more for development as opposed to a tool for dragging back this same vision. This is especially the case in regard to the electronic media due to its visual power. It is normally argued that a picture is worth a thousand words, thus what our young ones watch from this television networks needs to be vetted clearly. If violent television leads to an increase in violent crimes like it has been proven through the various researches then the relevant steps must be taken by the government, regulatory bodies as well as the society as a whole to avert this situation. With the increase in mass murders committed by adolescent children using guns in schools only asserts the proof that television violence certainly increases violent crimes among our children.
Some media scholars and members of the society do not agree with the assertion that television violence indeed leads to an increase in violent crimes. Television was made widely available all over the world from the 1950’s but violent crimes have been reported to increase only in America and Canada. According to Freedman (2002, p. 7), television was also introduced in France, Japan and other countries but the level of violent crime still remains low. According to this school of thought, if television violence was responsible for the exacerbating violent crimes then the scenario would have been the same all over the world. However as much as this argument may hold some water, there might be some underlying factors that prevent this from being uniform all over the world. According to Centerwall, culture plays an important role in some societies. In countries like Japan the rate of violent crime is low due to its strong cultural background that overrides television influence. Nonetheless was it not for its stringent mechanisms of dealing with physical aggression the situation would have been replicated as that of the United States and Canada.
The second issue highlighted by scholars was the conflicting definition of the term aggression used by the various researchers. Whereas, some researchers listed cartoon violence as a form of aggression, some regarded cartoon as a form of imaginary entertainment with no adverse effects on our children. This lack of consistency in the researches has raised questions about the authenticity of their conclusions (Media Awareness Network 2010, par. 17). However the bottom line remains that when the children are exposed to any of these forms of violence whether from real people or cartoons, they tend to display the same during their child play. This clearly indicates that violent programs watched by our children undeniably have an adverse effect on their subsequent behavior.
Agenda Setting Theory of the Media
This theory propagates that the more the media highlights something; the population seems to consider it as important and thus take it as it is to form the public opinion. Thus with the proliferation of violent programming in our televisions our children are programmed to take this as an acceptable way of life. As stated by Potter (1999, p. 171) the highly publicized suicide of Marilyn Monroe saw a considerable increase in suicides. An increase in publicity of murder suicides also saw a rise in multiple car passenger deaths. With all the above instances an increase in publicity increases the occurrence of the crime.
A research conducted by Phillip and Hensley proved that the mass media stories have a strong capability of triggering emulative increase in fatal violence (Potter, 1999, p.172)
This is the process of making sense and assimilating our experiences into our everyday life. Children internalize the message they get from the television and integrate them into their daily lives (Smith et al., 1998, p.658). Television violence teaches children manners that disregard violence and present some aggressive behaviour that the children internalize as being acceptable in the society. For example the children may be made to believe that giving someone a good thump is the best way to settle scores (Russell et al., 2003, p.146).
It has been established by psychologists that our children normally grow through emulating one or more persons in their lives. These are the people they regard as their role models. More often than not it has been established that children’s role models are television celebrities. Based on these the role models will depend on which programmes the child watches most of the time. According to Freedman (2002, p.4) the violent characters in the movies are normally the role models of our children. Our children’s inability to differentiate between the fictional characters in the movies and real life sees them try to do exactly what the movie character was doing which more often than not ends in tragedies (Russell & Jarvis, 2003, p. 146). A good example is that of Lionel Tate who was convicted for the death of Tiffany Eunick. He committed this murder through imitating the moves of his favourite wrestling character and the injuries inflicted on Tiffany could only be compared to a fall from a three story building(Schneider et al., 2005, p.156 )
With all the researches carried out it has been clearly identified that our children have increasingly become a product of what they watch. The violence in our TV programming has in turn produced a violent generation who more than often has neither respect for one another nor respect for human life.
Based on this realization of the strong effect of the mass media on our children, it is then of paramount importance that stringent measures to control what they watch be implemented. The responsibility of our children is in our hands and therefore it remains the prerogative of the society to ensure that offensive and violent programs are vetted out of our children programming.
Freedman, J. (2002). Media violence and its effect on aggression: assessing the scientific evidence. Ontario. University of Toronto. Web.
Media Awareness Network, (2010). Research on the Effects of Media Violence. Web.
Potter, W. (1999). On media violence. California: SAGE Publishers.
Russell, J., & Jarvis, M. (2003). Angles on Applied Psychology. Cheltenham, Britain: Nelson Thornes.
Scheider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L. (2005). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. California: SAGE Publishers
Smith, F., Wright, J. & Ostroff, D. (1998). Perspectives on radio and television: telecommunication in the United States. New York. Routledge Publishers.