Youth violence is a major problem in the world today that must be continually researched and examined in order to reduce its harmful grasp. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), violent acts were the second leading cause of death for young people in the United States in 2010 (Understanding Youth). Youth violence not only includes children that are victims of violent acts, but also those that commit acts of violence. The CDC also reports that in 2008, 16% of violent crimes were committed by juveniles (Youth Violence). The reach of youth violence in quite broad and include violence in schools, gang violence, bullying, and dating violence. Much research has been done to identify possible causes of youth violence. Contributing factors include previous abuse or exposure to violence in the home, unstable family atmospheres, drugs, disorganized communities, psychological disorders, and exposure to media violence. Of these causes, the one that gains a lot of public attention is violence in the media. Exposure to violence in the media is a contributing factor to youth violence, but the affects are underestimated by the public due to a lack of understanding of scientific research.
In recent years the effects of violence in the media on people has stirred significant debate among the general public and various professional communities such as the legal and scientific communities. Although a significant amount of research has been done on the topic and shows a significant correlation between media violence and aggression, the debate continues. One reason for this is the difficulty is showing causality due to methodological problems. Since children's media exposure is assumed to have affects over time, many years in fact, it is difficult to control for other factors such as family problems, drugs, previous aggression, etc. (Cantor, 4). Since it is impossible to perform an experiment to show causality due to the reasons previously mentioned, people often disregard convincing studies that show a significant correlational relationship.
In order to build a full picture of the affect of violent media on children, one must assess the different aspects of why violent media leads to youth violence. Kivel and Johnson say that "leisure has been identified as a central developmental context for young people" (4). They go on to discuss that since children consume large quantities of media in their free time it is reasonable to conclude that activities such as watching television or playing video games will affect their development and identities. They then performed a study using collective memory work to show that males use early forms of media exposure to develop their views of masculinity. They found that men's earliest memories of media all were factors in how the participants developed their view of masculinity and manhood. A lot of it revealed that the participants learned that men should be fighters, macho, heroes to be desired by women from shows like Top Gun, G.I. Joe, and World Wrestling Federation (Kivel and Johnson, 2009). If men use these shows to form their perceptions on what it means to be a man, then violence will undoubtedly be an integral part of those perceptions. Though this study only focuses on the affects of media violence on makes, it useful in showing that the leisure activity of watching television foes in fact shape how children form their identities. Based on that information alone, parents should take great care in monitoring what their children watch.
Another aspect of how violence in the media affects children's behavior is that it can lead to desensitization and hostility which makes children more prone to violent acts. Psychologists have long used desensitization to help treat phobias. By exposing a person to something that they fear repeatedly, they eventually become desensitized and are no longer affect by the stimulus that they once feared. Cantor asserts that by repeatedly watching violent interactions in the media children go through a similar process of desensitization. This can lead to several unhealthy outcomes in youth such as less sympathy for victims, and reduced arousal when witnessing violent acts in real life (5). The combination of these two outcomes have a strong potential to lead a child to actually perform violent acts without sympathy for who they hurt or emotional disturbance from their actions.
While the research above is compelling it is unable to show causation which makes it vulnerable to attack from a variety of sources. In the case violence in the media, the entertainment industry has…