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Youth Violence And The Mass Media

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The problem I am researching is the desensitizing of America's youth through violence in the mass media, specifically television and video games. I am interested in studying it because as violence on television and the violent content contained in video games has increased, so has youth violence. I want to find if the increasing violence shown on television and video games has a desensitizing effect on America's youth, thus, increasing the probability that they will commit an act of violence. I believe that this research is important because I think violence on television and video games is a form of classical conditioning. In the movie, "A Clockwork Orange," the character was given negative reinforcement whenever he sees acts of violence shown to him on television. Eventually, he becomes repulsed by it and feels ill every time he sees or thinks of committing an act of violence. I think television and violent games are having a reverse effect on America's youth. Violence is glorified in the mass media, thus youth become to associate killing with entertainment, they see violence as the "manly" thing to do, and they see how violence on television often goes unpunished. I feel this is a cause of youth violence because of the desensitizing nature of violence on television. One study showed that network programming averages 36.6 violent acts per hour. Is there any question that this would have a desensitizing effect on America's youth over time?

Literature Review

I looked at five other studies that were related to my research. The first was from an article from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology entitled "Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life" by Craig Anderson and Karen Dill. In the article, the effects of violent video games on youths were studied. What was found was that real-life violent video game play was positively related to increased aggressive behavior and delinquency. Also, academic achievement was negatively related to the overall amount of time spent playing games. This study involved two different forms of observation. The short-term effects (laboratory aggression) of the video games was studied using laboratory observation, while the long-term effects (increased delinquency) were studied using surveys.

Another study I looked at was an article from the Sociological Spectrum entitled "Violence, Morality, and Television Commercials" by Brenden Maguire, Diane Sandage, and Georgie Ann Weatherby. This study examined whether violence in television commercials was related to declining morality and rising crime among youths. A content analysis was performed of 1699 commercials shown over sixteen days and evenings in January and February of 1996 and June and July in 1997. What was found that only a small percentage of commercials contained violence and a small number of commercials exhibited behavior or attitudes contrary to conventional moral standards. Maguire et al concluded that although advertisers sponsor programs that feature violence, they do not wish to associate violence with their products. Therefore, commercials have little to effect on the increasing aggressive tendencies of America's youth.

The third article I studied was from the journal, Aggression and Violent Behavior 4, entitled "Film Violence and Young Offenders" by Amanda Pennell and Kevin Browne. In this article, Pennell and Browne found that screen violence can affect consumer behavior by: imitation of violent roles and aggressive acts; triggering of aggressive impulses in predisposed individuals; desensitizing feelings of sympathy towards victims; creating indifference towards use of violence; and creating a frame of mind that sees violent acts as socially acceptable responses to stress and frustration. Pennell and Browne found young offenders like violent videos because of their aggressive backgrounds and behavioral tendencies, but concluded that whether such tastes in film reinforce violent behavior and increasing frequency of aggressive acts is debatable. The methodology used in this study was laboratory observation, with each youth being shown a violent video and their immediate reaction as well as their impression of the video late being noted.

The fourth article I used was entitled "Cutting Film Violence: Effects on Perceptions, Enjoyment, and Arousal" by Mike Berry, Tim Gray, and Ed Donnerstein. This article was taken from the Journal of Social Psychology. This study investigated the effects of cutting specific graphic scenes of film violence on self-reports of arousal, enjoyability, and perceptions of violence among a sample of 184 United States undergraduates. In three studies, film exposure was varied from 90 seconds in the first study to a complete motion picture (U.S. versus British version of the same film) in the third. In all three studies, the participants rated the cut versions as less violent than the uncut versions. The participants distinguished quite subtle differences in levels of violence, even when the cuts were minor and contextualized within the entire movie. Cutting the movie significantly increased its enjoyability for the women; for the men, there was no significant difference. The methodology used in this study was laboratory observation as the films were shown to participants in a laboratory setting and their impressions of the alterations to the film were monitored.

The last article I used was "Revenge of the Video Games" by Katrina Woznicki and printed in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In this article Woznicki suggests that playing violent video games could lead to an increase of real-life aggression. She says "that frequently playing graphically brutal video games is more likely to increase aggression among young men than watching violent television shows or movies. The difference is that television or movie viewers have a passive role, while video and computer game players are actively involved in what they're seeing. If the player doesn't shoot first, the enemy will shoot him, or at least his on-screen persona." However, she had no evidence in her article to back up her research.

I think my study will be an improvement on these studies because I feel none of them explained enough the effects of this violence on youth over an extended period of time. My study is going to monitor youths over several years to see long term effects of violence in the mass media.


My hypothesis for this study is that violence in the mass media has a negative effect on the aggression levels in America's youth. I believe that enough exposure to violent materials over time could desensitize



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