Violence in the Media

Violence in the media has been a much discussed issue for several decades now. With the development of technology an increasing number of media formats are reaching the general public and in particular children. While children of previous generations were familiar with books, newspapers and magazines, movies, radio and broadcast television, children nowadays have unlimited access to numerous cable TV channels, video games and to a great number of Internet sites.

Media has a significant influence on views and beliefs. Opinions on the correlation between media violence and violence in the real life differ. A lot of studies on media influence have found that there exists interactivity between violence in the media and real violence. However, many studies do not see such a correlation.

In fact children's adventure and suspense movies have ever included violence. However, with the appearance of virtual reality and interactivity in computer games and multimedia the images of violence started increasingly merging with reality. All this can contribute to an aggressive culture.

All the new media formats and especially the images of violence shown in them do affect children. In the 1990s UNESCO carried out a Global Media Violence Survey with the participation of over 5,000 students aged 12 in 23 countries across the world. The objective of the survey was to understand the influence of media on children and the relationship between violence in media and aggressive behavior among them.

According to that survey 93 percent of students living in electrified areas watch television for three hours on average a day. This is far more than the time children spend on any other activity out of school. The survey also found that aggressive action heroes impressed boys all over the world, no matter whether in industrialized or in developing countries. For instance Arnold Schwarzenegger's ‘Terminator' was known by 88 percent of the children surveyed.

The survey showed that children accepted action heroes as their behavioral model especially in neighborhoods of high crime rate and in war-ridden countries. Girls were keener on accepting movie and pop stars as their model of behavior. A matter of concern is the fact that 44 percent of the interviewed boys and girls said that what they saw on television overlapped with the way they perceive reality. In many cases children experienced violence in their real life and found the answer to that in the behavior of their movie or television heroes.

UNESCO‘s survey contributed to evidence that already existed, that violence in the media can harmfully affect harmfully children's minds. However, the study recognized that the effect differs depending on the gender and on the place where children live.

Taking into consideration the spread of violence across media, many governments around the world have taken some steps to introduce regulations on media violence or to exert pressure on media for self-regulation. However, such measures raise concerns about censorship. Besides, media entertainment is a very big business and action movies sell especially well. They are easily understood and have simple plots. Action movies rely basically on fights, murders and explosions.

So the idea of education on how to accept media violence is getting increasingly popular. Children need to be educated both at school and at home how to accept all violent images in the media. The protection of children in a globalized world is to rely increasingly on parents, on public pressure and on a responsible media sector.

With a view to inform people around the world on the matter, UNESCO set up International Clearing House on Children and Violence on the Screen at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. The center collects and distributes findings of studies and researches on the effects of media violence. It also collects and provides information on what measures are being taken in different countries for limiting violence in media.

Teachers can play a major role in the education of children and adolescents on how to perceive the violence they see in the media. Physicians, in particular psychiatrists, can have a great influence on the effects of media violence. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has made some recommendations on how to address television violence. AAP recommends that parents should limit television to one to two hours daily and should see programs with their children helping them to interpret what they see. School also needs to teach children how to interpret violence in the media. It is very important that children and adolescents are taught to be able to recognize which media messages are appropriate.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Violence and the Media
Cynthia Carter; C. Kay Weaver.
Open University Press, 2003
Ill Effects: The Media/Violence Debate
Martin Barker; Julian Petley.
Routledge, 2001 (2nd edition)
Analyzing the Impact of Drugs, Violence, and Sex in the Media
Larson, Karl.
American Journal of Health Education, Vol. 38, No. 3, May-June 2007
Media Psychology
David Giles.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Effects of Media Violence"
Violence on Television: Distribution, Form, Context, and Themes
Barrie Gunter; Jackie Harrison; Maggie Wykes.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
The Psychology of Entertainment Media: Blurring the Lines between Entertainment and Persuasion
L. J. Shrum.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Paths from Television Violence to Aggression: Reinterpreting the Evidence"
Media and Society: Critical Perspectives
Graeme Burton.
Open University Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Media and Violence"
Media Entertainment: The Psychology of Its Appeal
Dolf Zillmann; Peter Vorderer.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Violence, Mayhem, and Horror"
Predicting Exposure to and Liking of Media Violence: A Uses and Gratifications Approach
Greene, Kathryn; Krcmar, Marina.
Communication Studies, Vol. 56, No. 1, March 2005
The Faces of Televisual Media: Teaching, Violence, Selling to Children
Edward L. Palmer; Brian M. Young.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003 (2nd edition)
Direct and Indirect Aggression on Prime-Time Network Television
Glascock, Jack.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 52, No. 2, June 2008
Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research
Jennings Bryant; Dolf Zillmann.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Effects of Media Violence"
Youth Aggression and Violence: A Psychological Approach
Thomas G. Moeller.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Television and Media Violence"
Covering Violence: A Guide to Ethical Reporting about Victims and Trauma
William Coté; Roger Simpson.
Columbia University Press, 2000
Television and Child Development
Judith Van Evra.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Violence and Aggression"
The Effect of Perpetrator Motive and Dispositional Attributes on Enjoyment of Television Violence and Attitudes toward Victims
Lachlan, Kenneth A.; Tamborini, Ron.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 52, No. 1, March 1, 2008
The Just Do It Riots: A Critical Interpretation of the Media's Violence
Taylor, Paul Anthony.
Capital & Class, Vol. 36, No. 3, October 2012
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