Does exposure to media violence cause increased levels of aggression & violence in youth?

Written by kevin fobbs
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Does exposure to media violence cause increased levels of aggression & violence in youth?
Exposure to media violence has a negative impact on youth and teenagers. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Young children and teenagers are exposed to violent media in the home and other settings. The exposure can originate from television, computer games, music videos and violent video games. For example, there are approximately 20 to 25 acts of violence an hour on Saturday morning TV shows, and it's estimated kids will see 8,000 hours of TV before kindergarten. The higher the level of a child's exposure to media violence, the higher the aggressive behaviour of the child, says the Adults and Children Together Against Violence website.

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Passive and Interactive Media Violence

Media violence researchers have concluded that there are several ways media violence influences a young person's behaviour. Passive media violence affects a young person through exposure to television violence in programs, movies or news that is only observed by the child or teen. Young people are also influenced negatively by interactive media violence, where they participate, like in video games or activities on the Internet. Even short-term exposure to violent TV and film media causes aggressive emotions and behaviour serious enough to harm others, according to the website Psychological Science.

Influencing Factors

There are certain factors that will influence the degree that media violence has on children and teenagers. The presence of these factors will moderate the negative behavioural actions of the affected child. For instance, depending upon the age of the viewer, previous displays of aggressiveness as well as the intelligence level can determine how violent media will have an influence. In addition, the influence of parents, the child's social environment or how the child perceives the media as realistic and begins to identify with aggressive conduct can determine the impact of violent media, says the Surgeon General.

Long-Term Aggressive Behavior

Long-term aggressive behaviour based upon exposure to media violence has some serious and detrimental effects. Over time, youth who have been exposed to media violence exhibit an increased tendency to be desensitised to observations of violence, whether it is real or fictional. Their physiological reactions to observations of conflict, aggression and violence is neutral; among those not desensitised, viewing these would lead to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and certain brain wave patterns, according to the Iowa State University Department of Psychology. Over time, the increased violent media exposure causes youths to view the world in a more hostile way.

Effect On Brain

Exposure to violent media can have an impact upon a child's brain if he watches violent television shows or even plays video games. According to Web MD, this is also true for those children who may not have a previous history of aggressive behaviour. Dr. Vincent Mathews, a researcher with the Indiana University School of Medicine, found that children who have disruptive behaviour disorder had similar disruptive behaviour as non-aggressive children exposed to media violence. Both had "similar patterns of activity in an area of the brain linked to self-control and attention," according to Web MD.

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