Media Influences on Juvenile Delinquency

Written by karen boyd
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Media Influences on Juvenile Delinquency
Media glorification of graffiti artists may contribute to juveniles defacing public property. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, juvenile arrest rates climbed steadily during the two decades leading to their peak in 1996. Since then, juvenile arrest rates fell consistently until 2008, the last year for which statistics are available. 2008 rates showed lower overall juvenile crime than in 1980, as well as a drop in violent crime to levels similar to the 1980s. These changes leave some experts wondering to what extent media influences juvenile delinquency.


A 2003 report by the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University and other universities concluded that exposure to media violence increases the chances for teenagers to act violently and aggressively. Additionally, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that movie violence, sex and profanity increased from 1992 to 2003, and that Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) movie ratings during that time slipped downward, making it easier for younger audiences to view more images of violence. Contrary to these indications, however, violent juvenile crime dropped between 1996 and 2003 even as media violence increased.


A commonly cited statistic says that a child watches 16,000 murders and 200,000 violent acts on TV by the time the child reaches the age of 18. Further, according to the American Psychological Association, exposure to television violence makes children less empathetic to others, more fearful, more aggressive, and more accepting of violence. Again, the consensus is that violent acts on television have increased during the same time period that violent crime by juveniles has decreased. Most studies of television and juvenile delinquency were conducted during the 1990s, and do not take into account the statistical decrease in juvenile violent crime since 1996.


Numerous studies during the 1980s and early 1990s indicated that antisocial musical lyrics have an impact on an adolescent's opinions of what behaviour is socially acceptable. The same studies also indicate that misogynistic lyrics lead to disrespect of women and acceptance of domestic violence. Interestingly, juvenile delinquency rates that have gone down in other areas, have remained relatively constant for assault. The studies also indicate the music alone, without video, has less impact than lyrics accompanied by suggestive video.

Social Media

MySpace and Facebook have only existed since 2003 and 2004 respectively. During that time, however, they have grown into worldwide phenomena. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has linked social media sites to cyber-bullying and sexting, both of which can lead to delinquency charges. On the other hand, the AAP has also recognised that such sites encourage community involvement, volunteering, and more culturally diverse friendships that may help prevent delinquency. In Pediatrics magazine, Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe indicated that the best way to minimise negative media influence on teenagers remains for parents to keep open lines of communication with their children.

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