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Violence In The Media And Its Effect On Children

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Violence in the Media and its Effects on Children

The reason for violence in children has been studied for years and the cause is still unclear. Violence in the media has been known to leave a lasting impression in the minds of all humans. However, it just seems that it only brings out violence in some children. This leads psychologists to believe that violent movies and television may play a significant role in the actions of violent children. "There is no longer any serious debate about whether violence in the media is a legitimate problem, there are substantial risks of harmful effects from viewing violence throughout the television environment," Scott Stossel explains in his article in The Contemporary Reader, about the effects of media on the public (Stossel 172). However, it would make sense that the children that do become violent already have psychological issues and the impact from media may affect them more radically.

Violence on television and in movies has a surprisingly appealing effect on children. Movies and television show children how easy it is to be violent without showing them real-life consequences. For years, television and movies have been blamed for inspiring acts of violence in children such as school shootings. The school shootings became popular among troubled children after a 1996 shooting when fourteen year old Barry Loukaitis opened fire on two students and a teacher at a small town school in Moses Lake, Washington. This case really interested me because there were so many aspects of media violence that inspired this child.

Long before the school shootings in Oregon and in Colorado, fourteen year old honor student, Barry Loukaitis, walked into his Algebra class and shot his teacher in the back and two students in the chest. Apparently Barry did have a target that day, a popular boy who had teased him. "Guns and violent videos were always around the boy's house," reporter Timothy Egan wrote in an editorial in the New York Times. Barry grew up around violence and was able to attain three of the family firearms to bring to school for his rampage. I think that in addition to the violence in his home, the media he was familiar with had an effect as well.

Not only was Barry sensitive to media, he had problems at home. His mother was a little psychotic. She told the courts that she had shared with her son her own murderous ideas about how she wanted to tie up her estranged husband and his girlfriend and make them watch as she shot herself to death. She also mentioned that Barry was able to talk her out of it (New York Times).

After the shootings, Barry was sent to therapy. Psychologists concluded that the media did play a large part in the ideas of this young child. A few major factors came into play, Barry's favorite song at the time was "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam. For those who have never seen the television music video for this song, it shows a kid killing his classmates. The lyrics are an issue in themselves: "Lemon yellow sun, arms raised in a "V" and the dead lay in pools of maroon below." The chorus of the song, "Jeremy spoke in class today," was supposedly what pushed Barry over the edge. There was a study done by the Surgeon General that concluded " that watched a violent rap music video were more likely to [be violent] in a [conflict situation] than those who watched a nonviolent rap video" (Leeds 2). For some reason Loukaitis felt the need to take revenge on his classmates and seeing killing in a video from artists he respected made it seem like it was okay.

In addition to the music video, Barry got murderous ideas from his favorite movie, Natural Born Killers. Barry first saw this movie on cable television. Egan also mentions that some of Barry's classmates recall him saying that it would be "pretty cool" to go on a killing rampage just like the two lead characters in the movie.

Having divorced parents was also hard on Barry. His mother made it difficult for Barry to know his father. She dominated most of his actions which was not hard for her to do when his father was not interested anyway. The neglect from his father, who had obviously been one of his role models, made an incredible impact. From some angles, Barry's father could have been a larger factor in his child's actions than just neglecting him because he had taught Barry to fire a gun at a young age (Arkansas Gazette) which was obvious because at the time of the shooting Barry was only fourteen years old.

Barry was an incredibly intelligent kid, but he had a background of mental illness. There was always violence in his home. "Growing up in a violence-laden culture breeds aggressiveness in some and desensitization, insecurity, mistrust, and anger in most," (Stossel 175). These are the children that usually are more sensitive to violence in the media, "Not even the most ardent critic of TV violence argues that images of gunplay and kung fu are the sole causes of youth violence. Yet they are significant" (Sappenfield 1). The Media cannot fully be blamed, but it does play a substantial part because the ideas of violence come from the media.

Because Barry did not have a steady male role model, he used famous men in the media to help guide him. Most children look up to their favorite rock stars or movie stars. Barry looked up to the rock band Pearl Jam. The music video showed lead singer Eddie Vedder acting in a manically intense manner. When a child's role model shows violent actions, those actions become "cool" and everyone wants to do them.

Violence on television seems to be the media that has the greatest effect on children. When a child watches cartoons parents usually use this as a time to get caught up on household chores because they don't realize the



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