Blaming the Media for Youth Violence

The fact of skyrocketing cases of violence among the youths has sent shivers up the spine of most of the responsible authorities. There are different researches that have been done and that are aimed at reaching a comprehensive conclusion on who is responsible for their behaviors. Some of the researchers blame the media while others blame the different aspects of the society. These societal aspects that are blamed for failing in their responsibilities involve the parenting skills, the culture among other related factors.  This study will aim at critically evaluating the role played by either the media or other various aspects.  This will assist in coming up with a comprehensive resolution concerning the issue of violence among the youths. It is after a careful examination and evaluation of both sides that an informed conclusion will be attained.

Media does not account for violence among the youths. For instance, claiming that desensitization is one of the methods that can be used to reverse the negative influence that the media has on the individual is quite superficial.  This would be masking the significant role that other avenues such as personality have on aggressive behavior.  For example, there can also be the possibility that aggressive people are normally attracted towards violent or aggressive contents.  In addition to this, those who are prone to viewing the violent content may not necessary dispose these characteristics to the real world. The contention behind this is that, youths who may involve in viewing of violent content may only reflect a priming effect. In this case, what they watch may not necessarily be transferred to the real world.  It only lasts for a short period. There is the   evidence of Harris and Klebold who used media images as vehicles to their antisocial behaviors, maladjustments and justification to harm those who  have hurt them. (Jenkins ,pg.363).

More media is being introduced everyday at a very astonishing rate. It is therefore the duty of each and everyone to know the kind of media to follow and the kind of material that they want to consume.  They should also know the kind of culture to follow and those that reward or result to negative repercussions. Whatever the youths consume as violent images or behavior may not necessarily make them violent. What makes them violent is the way they consume the materials that reflects on their destructive attitudes.  The symbols that are normally portrayed by the media have no definite meaning. The individual are the ones that give meaning to the images and symbols that they find on the media. When the youths have an urge to portray a particular meaning, then they are quite resourceful at knowing where to get the material that best fits their needs. (Jenkins, pg. 364).  The evidence in this case, is that some of the violent video games that are thought to have contributed to violence among the youths may not necessarily be the most marketed. However, the issue at hand is that getting rid of the feelings that drives the youths to viewing aggressive behaviors is even more hard than getting rid of the violent games themselves.( Jenkins, pg.364).  

The media play games used by the children do not show or make them aggressive, rather it is already stripped off the reality bit and what is only left is fantasy. Children use the play games to manipulate power.  They want to feel as if they are in a reality world where they manipulate their power and exert control over nature. (Jenkins, pg.367).

The greatest influence that can drive the children is the one that they experience directly. This means that factors such as the culture of the people are part of the influences that can subject the youths to violence. Rather than blaming the media therefore, the kind of materials that the youths are in direct contact with should be scrutinized. Those that form part of their environment.

From another insightful example, we can shut down the TV programmes that portray violent images. It is however hard to shut people in our environment. Media images may have only given Harris and Clebold in the Littleton shootings symbols to express their rage and frustrations (Jenkins,pg.368).  The media did not create their frustrations or the alienation.  What sparked off their attitude was not what they saw in the media but their feelings and intentions that they had.

It is the duty of the responsible authority to be able to show and direct the youths on the better ways to use diversity and media. This will greatly assist them to be able to learn more than to assume responsibilities. For instance the teachers, parents among other authoritative members of the society are responsible for directing the youths on the right kind of content to consume rather than blaming the media.

The evidence of youths engaging in violent behavior after watching violent acts in the media can be shown in a research that was carried out between August and September, 2006 as part of the national online survey in the United States.   The research involved 1588 youths who were reported engaging in violent acts within a period of 12 months. 38% of those were reported to have had an exposure to the online violent acts.  Those who witnessed violent behaviors both online or offline were reported to have acquired seriously violent behaviors in their life. 6% of the youths who were reported to have viewed more than one of violence online were reported to acquire violent behaviors.  On the others side, only 4% of the youths who portrayed violent behaviors were not exposed to online violence (Mitchell, 2008). 

Different researches have been carried out and theories have been developed regarding the use of the computerized games such as Wii games and the effects that they pose to the development of the youth’s brains.  The process of desensitization to violence can be one of the methods that can be used to get only the information that one wants while disregarding the one that is not important.  There are so many studies that have proved that exposure to media violence have in most cases resulted to aggressive behavior (Bartholomew, 2006).  The effects associated with media are skewed in favor of their interests. Furthermore, the media tends to desensitize the youths on the effects of the violent or aggressive behavior.

Although the first viewing of the aggression or violent content in the media may produce fear or avoidance attitudes, this may later change. For example, continues viewing of the content may consistently reduce the psychological impacts of the individual and they come to view the content as normal.  This in the long run means that the aggressive behavior will continue to escalate with continued viewing.  The P300 component of the event- related brain potential is normally elicited by viewing of the violent images and thus the individual becomes desensitized. Therefore, the contents of the media act to encourage aggression among the youths behavior (Bartholomew, 2006). Other cross sectional studies carried out have proved that there is a significant positive correlation between violent TV shows and aggressive behaviors among the youths. For instance, a research carried out in Maryland and Wisconsin high schools junior students found significant positive links between exposure to violence in the TV and aggression for both boys and girls. Another group of researchers found out that there were 49% cases of violent heavy viewers of violence in the TV as compared to the light viewers (Mitchell, 2008).  .

There is an established link between the rates of violence among the young children but an equal link has not been established for the older children and adolescents. This means that there has not been sufficient evidence to prove that violence content in the media is a positive factor in influencing aggression among the youths. An in-depth research requires to be undertaken in order to get the underlying factors that are hitherto responsible for the youthful criminality more so the chronic violent disorders.  

Research has also shown that there are other factors that are equally important in influencing aggressiveness among the youths. Therefore, the issue of violence among the youths is a product of interplay of differing factors such as the environment that the individual is, the family, the individual personality, schools, peer and generally the community risk factors. Community violence can be seen to be an influencing factor to youthful aggressiveness similar to those that result from consumption of violent content in the media.  The only differences that arises is that the community-based violence is out of control of  the responsible authority such as the parents while the media one especially influence from the websites can be controlled through controlled viewing.

A longitudinal study carried out from a time period ranging from less than one year to 15 years attempted to study a group of children aged 6-10. They found out that children who viewed more violent acts in the media committed more violent acts such as physical and verbal (Jenkins,pg. 334). The study also came to a conclusion that viewing of violence during the childhood days culminated to violent acts in the later part of adulthood. However, aggressive behaviors during childhood did not lead to viewing of violent content during the adulthood.

An experimental study that was carried out to investigate the effects of violence on the video games.  Children and college were assigned randomly to play either a children’s video or game that involved shooting a cartoon-like character or a non-violent video game. The ones who played the violent children’s game displayed a high level of aggressive behavior than those who played a non violent game (Jenkins, pg.335). Similar researches done proved that the serious aggressive behaviors emanated from a convergence of factors such as the genetic factors, the parenting styles, peers, schools and others. The researches that have been carried out have not effectively been able to link the extremely violent youthful behaviors with media influence.  The only evidence that has been provided is the short term effect of media on the emotions, thoughts and feelings of the individual. Therefore, little research has linked violent behavior with chronic aggression/ violence among the youths.

A research carried out by Escobar Chaves and Anderson examining the effects of youths spending their time in the electronic media; the study came to one conclusion that media violence increases chances of youth violence. Experimental studies have also proved that even a single view of the media violence consequently causes aggression among the youths in the immediate situation. For instance, KajBjorkqvist exposed 5-6 years old Finnish children to watch violent movies. Another watched the non violent movie. Raters, who knew not on the kind of movies that they watched, observed them as they played together in a room. The ones who had watched the violent movies were more prone to violent acts as well as demonstrated other aggressive behaviors. In addition there are also other researches that have shown that exposure to violent content in the media is likely to increase on aggressive thinking, aggressive emotions among others(Escobar-Chaves And Anderson,2008).

From the foregoing discussion therefore, although the media plays a part in influencing the youths due to the fact that the youths get a lot of information from it, the idea may not neccesality wanting to understand what the media is doing to our children but rather what the children are doing with the media.  This means that all the relevant factors must play their part to reduce the cases of youth violence without necessarily blaming the media as a single factor.

In a nutshell, the media seems to partially blame for the escalating cases of violence among the youths. For instance, the P300 component of the brain is elicited when violent images are viewed by the youths.  Furthermore, the media causes violence among the youths through the desensitization and disinhibition processes. For example, a research carried out on Finnish children where some were exposed to violent contents while others were not. Those who were exposed to violent contents manifested aggressiveness when they went to play with others. On the other hand, those who were not exposed to violent content did not manifest aggressive behavior when they went to play with others.  This shows the significance of the media especially in its contribution to violence among the youths.

Media’s interests are mostly geared towards making profits.  With regards to this fact, the ethical contents are not the most prioritized in almost all media. This therefore means the ethical value of whatever content they deliver to the public is not taken into consideration. What the youths get from the media is therefore taken as reality. Since the development of youths is comprised of complex processes involving a lot of innovation and invention, they may portray copy-cut behavior similar to what the media displays.  In addition, the media which serves as one of the most trusted sources of getting information has brought about cognitive priming to most of the youths. In this respect, the youths trust all the information given by the media as reality.  Furthermore, the fear that individuals have after watching violent contents only lasts for a short period. However, continuous viewing will make the youths to be used to it. They come to see violence as normal. This increases their aggressive behavior rapidly.

On the other end, media is not the only factor that contributes to the violence manifested among the youths. Firstly, it is the responsibility of the individual to know the kind of content that they are meant to view. Secondly, it is possible to control youths viewing violent content in the media than controlling real violence in the environment. This means that, the environmental violence, which is mostly difficult to control, is likely to influence the youths more than the media violence. Thirdly, the symbols claimed to influence the youth behavior do not have a general meaning.  The individuals using the media are the ones who give the symbols meaning. Fourthly, there is also the possibility that violent youths normally seek violent content from the media for instance the case of the Littleton shooting.  The two young people can use the media to justify their rage and frustrations to the community. Fifthly, the games played by the children do not necessarily cause aggressive behavior among the youths.  These games are normally stripped off the real effects they may be thought to bear living only fantasy in them. In addition, the children only use them to exert their power but not to influence them negatively.

In conclusion, the interplay between different factors is the major contributor of youth violence. Media cannot be solely be blamed for the violence prevalent among the youths. There are several intertwined factors that contribute to the violent behavior among the youths. It is the duty of the parents therefore as the primary socializing agents to guide their children on the right contents to watch on the media.  In addition, the community should refrain from portraying aggressive behaviors among the youths. It is the duty of both the media and the environment to work to shape the youths to acquire positive behaviors.  If media was to be the only factor to blame for violence among the youths, then it means that a great proportion of the youths were to be violent which not the case is. In addition, not all people are able to access violent content from the media yet they are aggressive. This means that they get this quality from the environment. Furthermore, the growth of media takes place at a very high rate, yet there is no evidence to prove that violence has been growing at a similar rate among the youths. This means that there are other factors responsible for youth’s violence. Therefore it is the question of the meaning youths attach to the media and not what the media does to the youths.

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