Extracts from the office of United States Surgeon General entitled Violence in the Media and Its Effect on Youth Violence (Jan. 17, 2001) presented in question/answer format.
Q: Is violence in media a concern to American parents?
A: ‘Americans have been concerned about the prevalence of violence in the media and its potential harm to children and adolescents for at least 40 years. The body of research on television violence has grown tremendously since the first major federal reports on the subject in 1972 and 1982 (National Institute of Mental Health, 1982; U.S. Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, 1972). During this period, new media such as videogames, cable television, music videos and the Internet emerged. As they gained popularity, these media, along with television, prompted public concern and research attention.’
Q: Does new interactive media (like videogames) affect children more?
A: ‘Recent surveys depict the abundance of (primarily electronic) media in U.S. homes (Roberts et al., 1999; Woodard, 1998) and the extensive presence of violence within the media landscape (Wilson et al., 1997; 1998). They also show that the proliferation of new media has expanded the opportunities for children to be exposed to media violence at home. Current psychological theory suggests that the interactive nature of many of these new media may affect children’s behavior more powerfully than passive media such as television.’
Q: What are the effects of media violence on young people?
A: ‘First, research on the effects of media violence examines many kinds of outcomes in young people. Researchers have focused primarily on aggression, an outcome that psychologists define as any behavior, physical or verbal, that is intended to harm another person. Physical aggression may range from less serious acts, such as pushing or shoving, to more serious physical contact and fighting, to very serious violent acts that carry a significant risk of injury or death, such as assault, robbery, rape and homicide. Some studies have focused on how media violence affects aggressive thinking, including beliefs and attitudes. Other studies have focused on the effects of media violence on aggressive emotions – that is on emotional reactions, such as anger, that are related to aggressive behavior. In this discussion, the label ‘violence’ is reserved for the most extreme end of the physical aggression spectrum.
‘Second, the preponderance of evidence indicates that violent behavior seldom results from a single cause; rather, multiple factors converging over time contribute to such behavior. Accordingly, the influence of the mass media, however strong or weak, is best viewed as one of the many potential factors that help to shape behavior, including violent behavior.
‘Third, a developmental perspective is essential for understanding how media violence affects youth behavior and for framing any coherent public health response to it. Although this report focuses generally on the violent behavior of adolescents, it is critical to understand how children are influenced by and respond to media violence, especially in order to recognize and help those who are particularly susceptible to adverse effects. Most youths who are aggressive and engage in some forms of antisocial behavior do not become violent teens and adults. However, it is well established that many violent adolescents and adults were highly aggressive and even violent at younger ages, and the highly aggressive child is at increased risk of growing up to be a more aggressive young adult (Nagin & Tremblay, 1999). Because influences that promote aggressive behavior in some young children can contribute to increasingly aggressive and even violent behavior many years later, it is important to understand the early factors that may play a role in later outcomes.
‘Fourth, a growing body of research supports theories that explain how exposure to media violence would activate aggressive behaviors or attitudes in some children. Humans begin imitating other individuals at a very early age and young children learn many motor and social skills by observing the behavior of others (Bandura, 1977). Social interactions shape the scripts for behavior that children acquire, but observational learning is a powerful mechanism for acquiring social scripts throughout childhood (Huesmann, 1998). Most researchers agree that such observational learning is probably the major psychological process underlying the effects of media violence on aggressive behavior. This same process could explain how pro-social behavior depicted in the media might encourage positive behavior in children (Friedlander, 1993; Harold, 1986; Mares, 1996).’
The above two-research reading from the best medical minds of the country is an eye opener. We’d be committing a big mistake if we thought we knew better than these people on the subject. By ignoring the effects of Entertainment Violence on our children, parents are silent partners in the infliction of permanent physical and psychological damage on them.