Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

"As Seen on TV": The Relationship between Media, Demographics, and Perceptions of Campus Safety

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

"As Seen on TV": The Relationship between Media, Demographics, and Perceptions of Campus Safety

Article excerpt

As the value and importance of an undergraduate education have increased over the years (Yee, 2012), so have the expectations of campus safety. In order to help students feel more comfortable in college, it is important for administrative staff, faculty, professors, and campus safety officers to be aware of student perceptions of safety--and the factors that can impact these perceptions. Although rare, a great concern regarding campus safety is the possibility of an active shooter situation on college campuses. An active shooter situation can be nearly impossible to prepare for because these attacks are often unexpected and people do not always know how to respond. In order to prepare individuals and minimize loss of life, Homeland Security and other organizations have developed training videos that show non-fictional (real-world) and fictional (dramatized) portrayals of active shooters. During the course of these training programs, which are being introduced more frequently on college campuses, participants are instructed to assess the situation and then adopt a survival strategy to run, hide, and/or fight. These training programs also often include fictional or non-fictional media clips of office or campus shootings.

Given that some of these active shooter programs are using different kinds of media portrayals to educate, simulate, and instruct about active shooter events and the strategies used to survive them, it is important to research what psychological impact exposure to different types of media have on the following: feelings of campus safety, perceived likelihood of an active shooter event, confidence in the police to deal effectively and efficiently with an active shooter, comfort with guns on campus, and likelihood of carrying a concealed weapon on campus if allowed. Because an individual's desire to allow or ban guns on college campuses can be related to his or her perceptions of safety and active shooter situations, all of the mentioned variables may have an effect on the decision. Importantly, creators of active shooter training programs might be interested in factors that increase the likelihood that viewers pay attention to and take the information disseminated by the program seriously so that they can effectively learn what to do in an active shooter event. In particular, it may be important to increase the viewers' concern over campus violence and safety. The idea here is that the audience should be adequately concerned about campus violence so that they want to learn how to survive a situation of violence on campus.

In addition, it would be important to determine how the psychological impacts of different media types might differently alter ideas of what constitutes a desired safety strategy, including the controversial and highly debated idea of allowing students, faculty, and staff to have guns on campus in order to "fight" an active shooter (Cramer, 2014; Patten, Thomas, & Wada, 2012). Furthermore, the impact of these different media clips might vary according to one's a priori demographic characteristics, including their prior level of comfort with guns, confidence in the police to protect citizens, and other individual differences that correlate with pro- or anti-carry attitudes.

Debates over Campus Safety and Current Policies

The allowance of concealed carry on campuses has been highly debated because of concerns over whether concealed weapon carriers can accurately and safely protect themselves from an active shooter, and whether guns on campus would strengthen or weaken campus safety (Sulkowski & Lazarus, 2011). Despite concerns over concealed carry effectiveness, several state legislatures have discussed bills that would allow students and faculty to carry concealed weapons on college and university campuses (Cramer, 2014; Patten et al., 2012). Concealed guns are currently allowed on college campuses by law in ten U.S. states; however, each school still has its own policies regarding who is allowed to carry a gun and where they can bring it (Armed Campuses, 2016). …

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