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We always wonder why bad things happen, maybe the answer is right in front of us but we’re just too blind or na?ve to see it. Most would like to think that all people know the difference between right and wrong. The problem is we grow up surrounded by bad things that are highly appreciated. The music we listen to, the things we watch and play are all things that we find enjoyable. Some people want to experience or live out those things because they look up to them. As humans we learn from those around us, so why do we continue to support violent video games, violent movies, and sexual behaviors. Why do we continue to let children be surrounded by these things? We should have stricter rules on violence and sex because children have been known to have a negative affect towards it and we can do things to control these behaviors.
Violent media has caused many harmful actions in the past. Devin Moore, an eighteen year old from Alabama, was arrested in 2003 for shooting and killing two police officers and a 911 dispatcher before fleeing the scene in a stolen cop car. Devin’s attorneys claim that this violent behavior is due his excessive exposure to playing the video game, Grand Theft Auto. This popular video game has achieved worldwide sales of almost $2 billion. After police captured Devin, he told them, “Life is like a video game. Everybody’s got to die sometime (Leung, 16).” The overexposure to violent media gave Devin Moore this mindset, the outlook that it is acceptable to kill police officers, steal cars, and act on sudden impulse. Devin Moore is not the only teenager whose sensitivity towards violent crimes has decreased due to high exposure to violent media, epically video games. Drive by shooting by two teenagers in Tennessee and the murder of six people in California are both also linked to the game Grand Theft Auto.
Video games are not the only violent media exposed to youth through the media, television is a large contributor too. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average American child will witness approximately 200,000 different acts of violence on TV by the time they turn eighteen years old (NCCEV, 1). With most of these crimes being viewed without parental supervision, children are not made aware of the negative consequences of these acts. Scientific studies have proven that exposure to violence, including on the television, causes many immediate and long term changes to the body. Examples of the short term changes are physiological arousal, which includes increased heart rate and blood pressure, also new facts and behaviors are exposed to those who view the violent crimes. Long term exposure often reinforces these behaviors and dulls the negative connotation associated with violence. Since children’s brains are not fully developed, they are extremely impressionable and more likely to act based on their sudden thoughts. Exposure to violent television is showing adolescents that violence is common and these kids sometimes try to imitate what they just witnessed. A child that acted in response to a violent television show was Nathan Martinez. He was an eighteen year old boy who shot his step mother and half sister to death. It was said that Martinez watched the television series Natural Born Killers frequently and watched it six more times prior to his shooting, when he imitated what he had seen on the TV show (CAN, 1).
Music has also become a huge part of children and teen’s lives. Music such as rap, rock, and heavy metal often has lyrics that describe violent actions. This type of music is becoming more main stream and is often heard on the radio by young children. The provocative lyrics found in these songs help contribute to the amount of violence found in music that is currently popular. Not only does this music alter the listener’s views on what is morally acceptable and what is not, but it also promotes violence to those who listen to it. A study was done in 2003 by the American Psychological Association. This study proved that violent lyrics in songs directly increase aggression related thoughts and emotions from the listener (APA, 1). Those who listen to violent music are more likely to act impulsively in the time after listening to this music. Not only does the beat and tone of the music cause it to be violent, but the meanings of the lyrics as well. Lyrics of the most popular rap songs describe shootings and other violent crimes, disrespect towards police and other authority figures, illegal activities, and vulgar sexual acts. Hearing this repeatedly through music is conditioning people of all ages to believe that this crude language and attitude is acceptable.
Along with the violent music that is being played, music videos are being shown as well. Students at Harvard University conducted a study in 1998 regarding the amount of violence shown in televised music videos. 76 two to three minute long music videos were examined and each video showed a mean of six violent acts. The number of shootings, stabbings, and fights in these seventy-six music videos reached a total of 462. This study took place in 1998, and as one can probably tell from society, the media violence has only increased. These frequently viewed music videos are giving adolescents visual directions on how to act in violence, and in more times than not, get away without getting caught. Video games, television, music, and music videos are introducing and familiarizing violence into the brains of adolescents. This constant coverage has been the cause of many violent crimes by the consumer in the past and if the trend of increased aggressive media continues, than the amount of violent acts due to the exposure of violent media will grow exponentially.
If we are to present the notion that media violence and sex should have stricter regulations, we should also take into account supporting evidence from social learning and imitation studies. Supporting evidence in our case of course, means evidence that demonstrates the claim that humans as social creatures, do in fact emulate the actions and ideas they see and hear.
Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura’s famous “bobo doll experiment” is a prime example of the effects social learning and vicarious conditioning have on children. In the original experiment Bandura and his colleagues compared the effects on children of watching a real life model, human film, and cartoon film present aggressive and non-aggressive behaviors. The children after observing these behaviors were taken into a room either alone or accompanied by an adult to observe the effects the presentations had on the children. To observe the effects the children were told to simply play with the toys in the room, specifically the bobo doll. The bobo doll being about the same size of the child represented a hypothetical person. “The children who observed the aggressive models displayed a great number of precisely imitative aggressive responses, whereas such responses rarely occurred in either the non-aggressive-model group or the control group”(Bandura and Walters 61).
Their findings showed that the children in their experiment imitated the behaviors that were presented to them earlier. The children who imitated the aggressive behaviors displayed verbal aggression and physical aggression towards the bobo doll similar to the person or film they watched. The children who observed non aggressive behaviors talked and played calmly with the bobo doll very much like the person or film they observed. Using these studies and the ideas within observational learning as a guide we can clearly see how media violence and sex have impacted impressionable humans. Knowing the effects of observational learning, the content in the media should be reformed to decrease the harmful psychological effects its content can have on people.
An indisputable factor in regards to imitation behavior regardless of age, is the role model who is presenting the behavior or idea. Role models of course, differ across each person’s lifespan. Typically, a young child’s role models would be his parents or others in his immediate social setting. Young children though are not our focus because of their role models, our focus is on impressionable older children, teens and young adults. “American children between 2 and 18 years of age spend an average of 6 hours and 32 minutes each day using media (television, commercial or self-recorded video, movies, video games, print, radio, recorded music, computer, and the internet)” (Haugen 16). Even though young children might observe media just as much as a teen, identification is important in determining imitation patterns. Identification in respect to human psychology, is the mechanism in humans that causes us to emulate the attributes or actions of the role models around us. If you can imagine a person who identifies with a negative role model in the media, can you see how that is potentially harmful? Everyone identifies with a role model regardless of who you are, but if a negative role model appeals to you, you would reflect their negative attributes as being positive. The media does a good job of painting the image of a seemingly good role model, but in reality they have detrimental attributes. There are “tricks” in the media that may or may not be fostered, but still have an effect on teens and young adults. “Attractiveness is assumed also to extend the controllers power influence over a wide range of behavior” (Bandura 95). A role model who is attractive or sexually appealing can cause a person to identify with them in the hopes of being more like them. For example, if every role model you had presented aggressive behaviors then it is likely you would feel less cognitive dissonance in having these behaviors. Though some role models are attractive their attractive physical qualities should not mask their negative attributes. Another “trick” is the way violence and sex is sometimes portrayed in the plot of a video game or movie. If violence and sex is necessary to the greater good of the character or events that are happening, then the acts will be presented in a positive light. The role model by effects of rationalization for the negative acts could be identified with, which is potentially harmful. It is not that a person chooses to identify with someone, it is an innate cognitive process that causes them to want to be like them in hopes of having their success or popularity. Identification can also be a defense mechanism for someone who feels they need to act like a certain person or behavior, which subconsciously reduces their own anxiety about their lack of identity or common stress in life. In regards to identification, the media should be doing a better job of monitoring the way role models are marketed. If violence and sex is presented by these “cool” or appealing role models, then their actions by the patterns in observational learning and identification will be reflected.
The media is a creative outlet; it is a way for people to express their ideas, their stories, and their characters. So instead of finding ways to cover up the parts of a writer’s story with intense censorship, the world will more than likely find ways to expose content that most people will find disagreeable. There will always be programs that are less than savory and so, in order for parents to feel comfortable with what their child is watching there are ways to prevent their offspring from being exposed.
Limiting time for children to watch television and spending time on the internet is a step in the direction of not only setting up a firm schedule for a child but letting them know that life is more than just television or Facebook. Many parents are too busy or too distracted to monitor their children but in order to really have a say in what their child watches and what they take in they have to be willing to take the extra step. Television should not be allowed during the hours in which they eat, it takes away an essential time of bonding and speaking with their family members.
Their computer time can also be cut into by setting up curfews on the Wi-Fi or even installing a program that allows the network to shut down after a certain time.
There are always other ways to prevent children from coming across a program that is too mature. Many cable and satellite networks have the ability to block certain channels from the children with a passcode. Beyond that the parent may also get blocks on the internet so that lewd pop-ups will not show and certain sites will not be accessed.
While these solutions require the active participation and monitoring of the parents, it is a very effective way to ensure the safety of the child. Not everyone would agree to such a thing but many are more than ready to instantly place the blame on the networks and media for exposing their child when they could do something about it themselves.
Censorship is not always a positive thing, but there are limits that should be set. If a group of people make enough of a fuss there is a way to get something done. Despite the size and wealth of a broadcasting network or the popularity of a show, a site, and even a celebrity, if people make a stand, if they move as one to shut something down, it could happen. Programs such as Heil Honey I’m Home or All My Babies’ Mommas were cancelled due to the uproar it caused in the public and the clearly offensive nature.
Just because the media and the world seems to accept shows, books, and more despite the problematic nature it does not mean that a family in specific has to. If they will not listen to what the average America has to say then that same America is free to do what it takes to make sure their life is not filled with the garbage they are so readily against. Taking a stand for what a person believes in is a honorable thing and accommodating to one’s own morals calls for a bit of celebration. Taking action and making sure a child is not exposed is someone’s own prerogative.
Another way to make sure a child is protected is explaining something problematic and telling a child what it means and what could happen if they see violence, sexual acts, drug abuse, and more. One of the main issues with the media being so free is that young people take it in without understanding the connotations and circumstances of what a show is depicting. If an adult takes the time to explain it however, it might just help a child to know that even if it is glorified on a huge screen it does not mean it should be reenacted by them. Too many times a child is left questioning what just happened in a video game or movie and too many times they are left to figure it out themselves, resulting in mistakes and experiences that could hurt them at a young age.
It’s up to use to control what and how much of something we want children to see. Parents, teachers and others have the power to show children that what they see isn’t the way that they should act, and children need better role models to look up to. It’s simple, if we know what can cause aggressive behavior in children, change it. We have the power to make things better but first we have to take a step back, open our eyes, and really see the problem
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