Media has a powerful impact on society. Media alters our buying habits, controls our tastes, incites our feelings against or for one or the other group or country, it is a powerful weapon indeed. Considering this influence of media over our lives psychologists and social scientists have become concerned that violence depicted on our media; TV, videos and videogames is responsible for increased violence among the children and in the society.
A number of studies claim to have conclusive proof that violence in the media and bad habits seen in cartoons and comic are making our children aggressive, fearful and developing a negative attitude towards the society. Other researchers and analyst dispute this theses and point to other factors as a cause of increased violence.
This paper reviews the arguments presented by both sides of this divide and also the writer's on opinion on this issue.
MEDIA HAS A MAJOR IMPACT ON DETERIORATING CHILDREN BEHAVIOR
United States is considered a country with a violence problem. The homicide rate among males 15 to 24 years old in the United States is 10 times higher than in Canada, 15 times higher than in Australia, and 28 times higher than in France or in Germany. Only countries like Colombia and Brazil and actual war zones such as Iraq have a higher homicide rate among young males than in the United States [Osofsky, 1999]. This statistics is frightening; why there is so much violence in United States and what can be done to reduce it, is a question that has puzzled governments, psychologists and social scientists. U.S. Department of Justice figures showed that 2.8 millions children (under 18) were arrested in 1997, nearly 2500 juveniles were arrested for murder, and 121000 were arrested for other violent crimes [Cantor, 2000].
Psychologists believe that seeds for attitude towards violence are sown early in life. This has resulted in many studies on the impact of TV, video, video games and children's programs including cartoons and comics which are accessible to children at home.
[Eron, 1963] and [Eron & Huesman, 1986] Huesman of University of Michigan carried out a long-term study of the viewing habits of a group of children for decades, They astonishingly claimed that watching violence on television was even more powerful factor in promoting violence than poverty, race, or parental behavior. This 1960 study followed up 11
years later and claims to show that the aggressive eight-year-olds of 1960 grew up to become even more aggressive 19- and 30-year-olds, with greater troubles-including domestic violence than their less aggressive counterparts who did not watch as much television [Eron & Huesman, 1986]. Eron & Huesman list dozens of other studies in support of their arguments that Violence on Media is harmful to children and eventually to the society.
[Senate Committee, 1999] reported that more than 1,000 studies on the effects of television and film violence have been done during the past 40 years. American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the National Institute of Mental Health have separately reviewed many of these studies and all of these bodies conclude that what children see on television including in some cartoons and comics may affect their behavior and violence in such programs can lead to real-world violence.
Exposure to violence on media is said to make children less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. It makes them fearful of the world around them and they can begin to be aggressive to protect themselves. Long exposure to television makes children behave more aggressively towards others [Children & TV Violence, 1999].'
According to a 2008 recent case, cartoons can indeed lead to misjudgment even if it is all very innocent in nature. It can still lead to tragic results. A young child in Seattle copied the habits of one of his favorite cartoon characters and died. He asked his cousins and friends to bury his head in a sandbox and when they did, little did they realize that it could cause him to stop breathing. When they pulled him out, it was already too late and the child died few days later. (Komonews.com, March 10, 2008)
Hundreds of studies, years of observations, recognition that media can mold the views and habits of all section and age group of population is sufficient proof that exposure of children to violent or bad behavior must be taken seriously and steps should be taken to regulate and monitor the kinds of programs very young people are allowed to watch.
MEDIA HAS A MINUSCULE OR NO IMPACT ON CHILDREN
It would really be great if we could find one factor that makes children more aggressive. Millions of children all over America are watching same kind of programs, violent cartoons, cartoons with bad language or aggressive behavior displayed by cartoon characters are accessible to children throughout America and indeed the world, yet only a tiny minority shows aggressive behavior or tendency towards violence. Although a majority of studies indicate a negative effect on children exposed to long periods of programs with violent content, the truth is that the link is far from proven.
When Dr. Satcher, Surgeon General during Clinton and Bush presidencies, was asked about media violence, he responded that the media is not a major influence on youth violence; these were the words from an influential and authoritative professional.
Dr. Satcher has indeed a valid argument; there are other causes of violence which are much more important. Dr. Satcher's report [Surgeon General, 2001] describes the risk factor for youth to turn violent; these include antisocial attitude, poverty, substance abuse, gang membership, abusive or neglecting parents and exposure to violence including TV violence. It is the combination of these risk factors plus factors such as low IQ and male gender which contribute to a violent attitude. Media violence in this context appears to be a minor factor in influencing tendency towards violence. It may have an impact on some children and no apparent impact on others.
[Huesmann & Enron, 1986] argue that there is a whole array of variables besides exposure to violent media content and many of these variables must be present to result in aggressive behavior. They declare that aggression in children appears to be "casually over-determined."
[Freedman, 2002] ridicules the notion that media violence promotes aggressive behavior. He questions the number of studies claimed to be carried out to show that children are affected by media violence. [Freedman, 2002] carried out analysis of many studies claiming to demonstrate effects of media violence and points to the flaws in those studies. Freedman argues that the number of studies claiming to demonstrate the negative impact of media violence is often quoted as many as 3500 while no more than 200 studies can be accounted on the subject. He calls this "worst kind of responsible behavior. He also analyzed several of the studies and dismissed them as inconclusive or incorrect. Freedman views the analyses presented to show a negative impact of media violence on children as "the health professionals are trying to please the politicians and the academics are trying to promote their careers" [Freedman, 2002].
[Hearold, 1986] carried out a synthesis of effects of television on social behavior and concluded that the positive effects of television viewing on children can be substantial and may in fact be more significant than the negative effect.
It is clear that this side of the arguments carry significant weight too otherwise after years of watching Tom and Jerry, World Wrestling, Exterminator and scores of much more violent programs, all children would have turned turn into Bonny and Clyde of the 21st century.
PART 4: MY OPINION
I believe that media has a powerful influence on people of all ages. Corporations and governments would not be spending billions of dollars on public Relations and advertising over the media if they felt that media has no impact on public views, ideas, buying habits and thoughts. Totalitarian societies use media to indoctrinate their population. Dictatorial regimes control all types of media, prevent opposition point-of-view from being presented on public media to control general public.
Media has played a powerful role in many positive developments in the global society, famine in Africa, massacres in Bosnia and Rwanda, global warming are some of the examples of media's powerful role in molding public opinion and attitudes.
When media can have such a powerful impact in molding the behavior of the society, it would be a folly to believe that TV could only influence children in their choice of shoes and toys and Pepsi vs. Coca Cola and not by what they see in the programs such as cartoons and comics.
Whether, the media exposure to violence has the devastating effect shown in some social and psychological studies is highly doubtful, I believe positively incorrect. As children grow they quickly realize the difference between fact and fiction. [Ward et al., 1972] study showed that by…