We seem to live in an increasingly violent world. It is everywhere we turn and look. From children playing in the school playground to the television shows, movies, and video games that children of today play in a daily basis. Though children to not seem to have any immediate after effects from such prolonged exposure to violence, the truth is that the television programs and the video games tend to affect the behavior of children and make them aggressive in certain provoked or unprovoked situations.
Available research data that was reviewed by Charlotte Grayson Mathis, MD (2005) for her article Media Violence May Affect Children’s Minds indicates that “Researchers found nonaggressive children who had been exposed to high levels of media violence had similar patterns of activity in an area of the brain linked to self-control and attention as aggressive children who had been diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorder.”
Vincent Matthews, MD (2005) further supported her statement, in a press release from the Indiana University School of Medicine indicating that “This observation is the first demonstration of differences in brain function being associated with media violence exposure.”
These conclusions were arrived at after researchers performed observation studies by measuring the different brain activity in the frontal cortex of the brain between 14 boys and 5 girls. While performing tasks that required varying degrees of concentration, it was observed that when less activity in the frontal part of the brain was observed, the children had problems with self-control and attention. In order for the test to be conclusive, the children were a mix of those who already had aggressive behavioral patterns and the others with disruptive behavioral patterns and lastly, a group that had no history of behavior problems.
Half the children were exposed to increasingly higher level of media violence everyday depicting human injury or video games that showed both injury and death. The results, as shared in the same article, showed that “The aggressive children had reduced activity in their frontal cortex while completing the task, regardless of their levels of media violence exposure. But researchers found that nonaggressive children who had high levels of media violence exposure also displayed a similar pattern of low activity in the frontal cortex. Children in this group who weren’t exposed to high levels of media violence had more frontal cortex activity.”
According to Kronenberger, PhD (2005), of Indiana State University the high rates of exposure to violent video games and shows can be mostly found in teenagers but cannot yet explain the implications of the exposure of the brain as well as behavioral development. He states” There are myriad articles showing that exposure to violent TV, especially, causes individuals to be more aggressive. We are studying the neurological and self-control processes that underlie the aggressive behavior.”
The after effects of exposure to media violence in children have been an enigma for most people involved in the media effects research. Professors like L. Rowell Huesmann (2007) of the University of Michigan believe that. “That exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively and affects them as adults years later.” But Jonathan Freedman (2007) from the University of Toronto opposes such a view because ” the scientific evidence simply does not show that watching violence either produces violence in people, or desensitizes them to it.”
Some experts who track violence in television programming, such as George Gerbner (2007) of Temple University, define violence as the “act (or threat) of injuring or killing someone, independent of the method used or the surrounding context.” There are certain groups who support the argument that exposure to media violence causes aggression. While others say that aggression and media violence are connected. Then there is also the side that says there is no definite connection between the two at all and should have no effect upon one another.
Huesmann explains his belief that ” children develop “cognitive scripts” that guide their own behavior by imitating the actions of media heroes. As they watch violent shows, children learn to internalize scripts that use violence as an appropriate method of problem-solving.”
The physiological effect of media violence on the other hand seems to also cause aggressive behavior because watching violence increases heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. It is believe that is a simulated “Fight of Flight” response and gives the child or adult the tendency to react aggressively when placed in similar situations. The problem is that the media does not display a realistic view of the violence because no repercussions corresponding to their violent actions are shown.
Studies show that by the age of 3, children already know what a television program is. Furthermore, according to the article The Effects of Media Violence on Children by Doctors Jane E. Ledingham, C. Anne Ledingham and John E. Richardson (1993) “95% of the time and will imitate someone on television as readily as they will imitate a live person”
According to these doctors, there is a consistent result stemming from studies on the effects of violent media on children. Children learn about aggression from watching television and imitating how it is done. They also know how to differentiate which types of aggressive behavior will bring about results that they expect. What children are incapable of doing at this point is differentiating between good aggression, such as a policeman chasing a criminal, and bad aggression, like threatening a classmate to get lunch money. Generally speaking, boys seem to be more affected by the media violence than girls. Possibly because of the predominantly male violence presented by the television media.
Other harmful effects of violence in the media to be considered are that children will most likely accept violence as a part of life and consider aggressive behavior normal in people. Thus, leading a child to believe that television violence exists in the real world and instilling fear in the child who is essentially non-aggressive. .
But television violence is not the only reason a child may become aggressive later on in his life. Any child given violent toys to play with tend to reenact violent scenes he has seen portrayed on television and will most likely take it out on his playmates as well. Parents also play a key role in how a child will behave in adulthood. If a father or mother has an aggressive behavior, the child will most likely inherit the hot temper regardless of what television programs he watches because the parent has set the example for his child.
Mathis, Charlotte Grayson M.D. Media Violence May Affect Children’s Minds. Web MD. Retrieved April 28, 2007 from http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20050610/media-violence-may-affect-childrens-minds
Freedman, Jonathan L. Research on the Effects of Media Violence. Media Awareness Network. Retrieved April 30, 2007 from http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/violence/effects_media_violence.cfm
Ledingham, Jane E, Ledingham, C. Anne and Richardson, John E. The Effects of Media Violence on Children. Public Health Agency of Canada. Retrieved May 1, 2007 from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/familyviolence/html/nfntseffemedia_e.html