Much Ado about Media Violence (First of Two Parts)

Manila Bulletin, March 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Much Ado about Media Violence (First of Two Parts)


It is easy and irresponsible to say that a single TV set is the main reason

why many kids today exhibit violent behavior...

The recent headlines have been showing a fair amount of violence. Even primetime drama has been contributing its share of aggression. We hear viewers complaining that this propensity of local television to exaggerate the violence angles and sensationalize the news to make it more "entertaining" puts our children at greater risk of becoming violent someday.

Unfortunately, the relation between media violence and violence in reality is not too well understood and thoroughly studied. Attention is being given in excess to causal relations rather than in making a genuine effort to understand the whole process of young people's cognitive learning.

It is easy and irresponsible to say that a single TV set is the main reason why many kids today exhibit violent behavior.

We try to dig up a little more of the truth with some research.

TV DID ALL THAT?

The findings are vintage 1991 but they still ring true, especially in Asia and Africa where a vast number of imports from American television find their way. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared TV violence a public health hazard.

In its report, it identified six types of adolescent health risk behaviors. These are physical inactivity, poor eating habits, smoking, alcohol use, sexual behaviors and violence. The Center acknowledges that these contribute to the leading causes of death and disability in the US among adults and the youth.

A year after, no less than the revered American Psychiatric Association implicated media violence as one of the culprits in why many adolescents drop out of school, jeopardize their future employment prospects or even end up being criminals.

It cites a substantial volume of literature and research that support the conclusion that mass media indeed contribute to aggressive behavior. It enumerated a number of contextual factors that may influence audience reactions to media violence.

Among these are the nature of the perpetrator, the nature of the target, the reason for the violence, the presence of weapons, the extent and graphicness of violence, the degree of realism of the violence, whether the violence is rewarded or punished, the consequences of violence and whether humor is involved in the violence. …

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