The various manifestations of violence in media, namely, movies, television, video games, books, and music, incur a substantial danger to the psychological health of children and adolescents as well as the well-being of society overall. Media violence implies all types of mass communication that portray the action of using force, the risk to apply force, or the outcomes of using force against or by media characters, including cartoon beings. Thus, this research paper aims to present both sides on the issue of media violence and advance three claims that prove its harm to the mental health of people, especially juveniles.
Despite the presence of extensive research evidence on the harmful effect of media violence on people, a fierce debate is continuing on this theme. On the one hand, referring to numerous studies, many researchers and organizations argue that media violence can promote the development of aggressive behavior, depression, anxiety, desensitization to violence, phobias, and nightmares in media consumers. Moreover, they have many obvious and dramatic examples, where adolescents imitating the action of film heroes commit terrible and ruthless crimes, harming or murdering many people, even their close relatives. For instance, in Riverside, California, two real-life half-brothers killed their mother and then dismembered her body (Feldman, 2020). During interrogation by the police, they confessed that this act was copied from the episode of The Sopranos. It should be added that the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics are among the authoritative organizations that oppose violence in the media.
On the other hand, critics argue that this statement is incorrect, indicating different methodological issues presented in the studies proving the harm of media violence. The primary problems are the absence of reliable and standardized measures of media violence and aggression, the presence of other social factors, and failure to determine the link between aggression and violent crime rates. In addition, opponents also draw attention to research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, which has shown the absence of a correlation between media violence and violent behavior. Lastly, they assert that many films only reproduce what is happening in reality, and to hide this would mean to conceal the truth.
The first claim relates to the argument that media violence promotes aggressive behavior in individuals. According to the American Psychiatric Association, it has been estimated that by the time the average US citizens become an adult, he or she manages to watch 200000 acts of violence and 16 000 simulated murders (Ireland et al., 2018). In this regard, the research has demonstrated that violent scenes in media can increase physical and emotional arousal and the level of cortisol, as well as provoke hostile thoughts in children (Gentile et al., 2017). It has been noticed that teenagers affected by excessive use of media become more irascible and irritable to external stimuli, cruel or insensitive to the pain of others, and even careless to objects. Furthermore, individuals continually consuming brutal media, especially video games, have lower blood pressure and heart rate in reaction to the real presence of violence.
In this context, the issue of video games requires special consideration since they are not only full of violent scenes but also cause the strongest addiction through influencing the dopamine system. In particular, in the 2015 German representative survey, fifty percent of adolescents aged from 14 to 17 years confirm that they play ruthless video games (Ireland et al., 2018). Craig Anderson and his colleagues showed in the studies that college students who were actively engaged in playing brutal video games were more inclined to delinquent behavior and the expression of aggression (Feldman, 2020). In 2015, the APA concluded that there is a clear connection between “violent videogame uses and both increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive affect, and aggressive cognitions and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy, and moral engagement” (Grossman & Paulsen, 2018, p.11). As a result, video games promoting aggressive behavior can lead to an increase in the number of fatal and nonfatal victimization occurring in society.
Depression, Anxiety, and Phobias
Excessive consumption of media, especially with violent elements, can develop acute depression, symptoms of obsessive anxiety, baseless phobias, and other severe psychological disorders. For instance, a study involving children and adolescents revealed that around 10% of participants suffered from pathological addiction to video games and had the signs of social phobias or depression and significantly lower school performance (Grossman & Paulsen, 2018). It is worth noting that, in children, the expression of childhood depression, hopelessness, and sadness appear in other ways than in adults. According to Feldman (2020), childhood depression can be manifested through avoidance of ordinary activities, unfounded fears, or impulsiveness. Moreover, because of addiction to media, especially video games, youths begin to feel solitude, become self-contained and suspicious, and acquire antisocial patterns of conduct, which ultimately result in dissatisfaction with life, extremism, and delinquency. Alava et al. (2017) state that social media facilitate propaganda of extremism and its organization and serve as a platform where people who feel isolated are encouraged to join extremist or radical movements. Finally, it should be added that the absence or lack of healthy activities, communication, personal achievements complicate depression, sadness, and loneliness.
Another form of violence that gains increasing alert among pedagogues and parents and can be promoted by media is cyber bullying that involves harassment, humiliation, threats, or torments through technology. This phenomenon possesses different forms, such as impersonation, that is, fake accounts, flaming, namely, posting derogative comments, trolling, trickery, cyberstalking, and denigration, that is, posting gossip and rumors about someone. A survey performed by the Cyberbullying Research Center in 2016 demonstrates that approximately 34 percent of middle and high school students have encountered cyberbullying; some were cyberbullied many times (McCullum, n.d.). It is worth noting that cyberbullying results in considerable negative outcomes and can produce anxiety, depression, a feeling of solitude, low self-respect, loss of interest in studies, and even using drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, there are numerous incidents when virtually harassed teenagers commit suicide or an act of revenge. It should be admitted that one of the leading causes of cyberbullying is extremely brutal video games where children, often for entertainment, chat using abuse words, offensive or humiliating nicknames, intimidation, and threats.
In summary, this paper has presented the two views of scholars on the question of the ability of violent media to cultivate violent behavior. In particular, the first part asserts that media causes delinquent behavior by illustrating antisocial conduct patterns and cultivating aggressive attitudes towards surrounding peoples, while the second group indicates a bias of these accusations. Moreover, the paper has made three claims that support the idea of the harmful influence of media on an individual’s behavior. The first claim states that brutal scenes in the media can incite aggressive feelings, emotions, and thoughts. In addition, violent media promote the development of feelings of anxiety, depression, and phobias, which can eventually lead to the commitment of crimes and participation in extremist movements or subcultures. Finally, the media facilitates cyberbullying that can produce a feeling of solitude, anxiety, depression, low self-respect, and push adolescents to commit reckless, emotional acts, including suicide.
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Feldman, R. (2020). Psychology and your life with P.O.W.E.R learning. McGraw-Hill Education.
Gentile, D. A., Bender, P. K., & Anderson, C. A. (2017). Violent video game effects on salivary cortisol, arousal, and aggressive thoughts in children. Computers in Human Behavior, 70, 39-43. Web.
Grossman, D., & Paulsen, K. (2018). On media violence and aggression. Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, 31(8), 11-12. Web.
Ireland, J. L., Birch, P., & Ireland, C. A. (2018). The Routledge international handbook of human aggression: Current issues and perspectives. Routledge.
McCullum, K. (n.d.) Cyberbullying in school: Prevention and support. Accredited Schools Online. Web.