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The industry knowingly takes advantage of this recent cultural shift in parent-child relationships. And finally, the industry knows that children and youngsters are more likely to be influenced by violent movies, TV shows, and games and are more likely to get addicted to violent imagery, becoming potential customers for future media products and games that glorify violence (Mean world syndrome, 2009). It is fair, therefore, to say that bombardment of children with media violence by the entertainment industry constitutes child exploitation.
Considering the severity of the problem, it is time to call for greater regulation of violence in media by the government and community organizations. Some people are wary of such calls. Americans love freedom of speech and libertarian laws. They do not always welcome government intervention in business and societal issues. Intervention in this case, however, is necessary. "If the goal of public policy is to protect the welfare of children and adolescents, then there can be no doubt that public policy related to media violence is necessary even if the effects are small," Kirsh (2006) explains. "For instance, if after watching a violent television show that has a viewership of 1 million youth a mere 0.5% of those youth become increasingly prone to aggression, then 5,000 children and adolescents could be adversely affected" (p. 298). Regulatory policies are also likely to encourage parents to be more active in regulating their children's viewing habits. And by making it hard for media content producers to market violent imagery to children, regulations may encourage them to redirect their resources for producing more child-friendly movies, TV shows, and video games. In short, regulation of violence in media has a potential to make significant positive changes.
It should be noted that some people oppose further regulation of violence in media because of the complexity of the issue. Some of them point out that there is no clear definition of "violence in media." Does it include accidents and disasters? How about psychological torment? Critics also argue that eliminating violent movies, TV shows, and games "on the basis of violence alone would also rule out important films like Saving Private Ryan (1998), Schindler's List (1993), or Hotel Rwanda (2004) -- not to mention popular children's films from the Lion King (1994) to the Shaggy Dog (2006)" (Trend, 2007, pp. 3-4). These are legitimate concerns. But the regulation does not mean total banning of violence in media. Regulation calls for better ratings system, protection of children from exploitation by the entertainment industry, and better parental guidance. It should also be emphasized that movies like Hotel Rwanda contain graphic violence but convey a message condemning it, whereas games like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare glorify violence and offer an opportunity to enjoy killing and hurting others, i.e. sadism. And finally, the problem with media today is not the fact that it depicts violence per se but the fact that it bombards viewers with constant images of violence. The purpose of regulation is not to curtail the "freedom of speech" clause of the Constitution but to preserve the innocence of children.
Violent stories are part of human history. Ancient history books, religious texts, poems, novels, and art are full of violent imagery. It is not surprising then that violence is also so widespread in media today. But the difference between the past and the present is that violent imagery is so readily available -- and unavoidable -- that we are heavily exposed to it from our early childhood. By the time children reach adulthood, they end up witnessing tens of thousands of acts of violence such as murder, torture, and rape. This constant bombardment of children with violent imagery desensitizes them to the actual instances of violence and encourages aggression. Violent video games allow children to simulate real-like situations where they can literally kill thousands of people. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the vulnerability of children is exploited by the entertainment industry which produces violent movies, TV shows, and video games targeted at children. The gravity of the problem calls for better public regulation of violence in media. The government and the larger public should take necessary measures to protect our children from the prevalence of violence on big screens they love looking at and the games they love playing.
Grossman, D. (1999). Stop teaching our kids to kill: A call to action against TV, movie & video game violence. New York: Crown Publishers.
Hoerrner, M., & Hoerrner, K. (2010) Violent video games might be to blame for violent behavior, in Kiesbye, S. (ed.) Is media violence a problem? (pp. 39-46) Detroit: Greenhaven Press.
Kiesbye, S. (ed.) (2010). Is media violence a problem? Detroit: Greenhaven Press.
Kirsh, S.J. (2006). Children, adolescents, and media violence: A critical look at the research. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.
Kumar, B. (2003). Run against media violence: Entertainment violence against children; don't buy; don't support. Lincoln, NE: IUniverse, Inc.
Mean world syndrome: George Gerbner on media and violence. (2009). S.l.: Insight Media. Retrieved 11 April 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msfu8YCCc8Q
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