A long-running debate since the 1950s has centred on the issue of media violence--in television, movies, music and video games--and its effects on society. Conclusions vary widely, but a growing number of scholars, psychologists, public health officials and others have suggested that exposure to media violence leads to violent behaviour in children and adults, a more casual attitude toward violence in the real world, and higher levels of fear about the world outside the television or video screen.
Higher Aggression in Children
One of the most hotly debated and widely studied issues is whether exposure to televised violence makes children more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour. A 2003 article called "The Influence of Media Violence on Youth," written by a group of psychologists and other researchers, stated that research on violent television programs, films, music and video games has found that media violence increases the likelihood of violent behaviour in children. The article's authors concluded that exposing children to media violence makes them more likely to be physically and verbally aggressive, as well as to harbour aggressive thoughts and feelings.
Increased Aggression in Adults
Higher levels of aggression resulting from exposure to media violence do not end with children; they might continue into adulthood, as well. The authors of the article on media violence and youth, which was published in the journal "Psychological Science in the Public Interest," stated exposure to media violence in childhood often leads to higher levels of aggression in adulthood, including physical assault and spousal abuse. The authors stopped short of suggesting, however, that media violence influences adults to engage in extremely violent crime, such as murder or rape.
Desensitised to Violence
Studies since the 1970s suggest that people who consume a great deal of media violence become desensitised to violence in the real world. Often, people who are exposed to a high level of violent media content react with less shock or disturbance to incidents of real-world violence and might even show less sympathy for the victims of violence.
"Mean World Syndrome"
A long-running study of television violence suggests that people who watch a great deal of television begin to perceive the world in a manner consistent with the images they see on television. As a result, they become more fearful of the world in which they live, often overestimating their risk of being victims of violent crime or believing crime is a serious and growing problem, even when crime rates are declining. The study's author, George Gerbner, terms this the "Mean World Syndrome."
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