Time to Reduce Media Violence

by Megan Kauffman

“By the time the average child is eighteen years old, they will have witnessed 200,000 acts of violence and 16,000 murders,” according to the Media Education Foundation (1). With most children having seen this much violence before they are in their 20’s it is safe to say that violence is a normal daily, or at least weekly, occurrence for most Americans. The striking correlation comes when we realize that this violence is not simply virtual. The amount of massive killing sprees is on the rise, the most recent being the tragic theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado and the Wisconsin shooting at a Sikh temple. Others include the Columbine High School shooting, Virginia Tech shooting and the Waco, Texas massacre to name a few. There are many others happening all over the world. But America has more than just mass killing sprees, it is one of the most crime-ridden countries in the world. Unless we begin to censor the amount of violence in our entertainment then we can expect to continue to see a rise in violent crime.

In 2011 the average American spent half of their leisure time watching television, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (2). Children are especially susceptible (3) to being affected by violent content on TV and video games. “Media violence is especially damaging to young children (under 8) because they cannot easily tell the difference between real life and fantasy.” So, most Americans grow up with a lot of violence in front of them as they are forming their values, their sense of right and wrong and their problem solving skills. If we grow up seeing violence as a normal way of life and as a means for settling arguments and getting our own way then how can we expect to have a peaceful nation? Violence has always been, and will probably always be a part of our culture. That does not mean that we should embrace it and celebrate it in our entertainment. If we celebrate violence then people begin to see it as a good thing and a way to get around tough issues that they are afraid of or don’t want to deal with. How much easier is it to point a gun at someone’s head and take their money than it is to get a job and work for it? Violence seems to be celebrated as a shortcut to a lot of things. If someone won’t do what you want them to do, threaten them. If you don’t agree with abortion, bomb an abortion clinic to get rid of it. Perhaps we wouldn’t have such a hard time getting people to implement healthy problem solving techniques if the amount of violence in films were censored and stricter laws about minors viewing violent content were put in place. As long as violence is interpreted as something that is okay for daily life we will continue to have warped societal values and many more people will continue copying the criminal behavior that they see in their entertainment.

If we want to have a consistently safe country to live in then we need to cut back on the amount of violence shown to our population, if violence is normal in what we surround ourselves with daily then how can we expect the people of our country to act differently than what their daily values tell them is okay? Violence can become an addiction for people, just like sex addiction and drug addiction.  According to Charles Johnston, MD (4) of the Center for Media Literacy, “The dynamics of media violence work… At a psychological level, the drama and titillation of these violent scenarios and our identification with their heroes and heroines serve to create a sense of excitement, potency and significance that is missing from most people’s daily lives. Beneath these secondary influences lie effects more directly neurological in nature. Here, it is less violence per se — behavior driven by anger or aggression — that hooks us to violent programming than the generalized rush of adrenalin we feel in response to violent situations presented to us.”

Without the rush of adrenaline that movie goers and gamers have come to expect from their entertainment, they simply do not feel entertained. The entertainment industry feeds off of the American addiction to violence. Just as a daily dose of methamphetamines is not a healthy thing, a daily dose of murder and rape does not make for a healthy society. I will not attempt to argue that violent entertainment is the only reason for America’s crime problems, however, it is a contributing factor that could be relatively easy to cut down on. If we can wean ourselves off of violence in what we see on a daily basis then perhaps we can begin to learn healthier ways to stimulate our minds and in turn create a healthier, safer place to live.

The arguments against censoring the violence in our entertainment are many.  One of which is that movie and video game creation falls under the First Amendment and thereby is protected by our right to free speech, so, censoring violence would be an abuse of our constitutional rights. The U.S. Supreme Court recognizes exceptions (5) to our right to freedom of speech, one of which is that the First Amendment provides no protection for speech that constitutes, “advocacy of the use of force or of law violation … where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”  Even though entertainment creators may not create violent content with the express wish of inciting criminal behavior, they must realize that, whether they meant harm or not, too much violence will get to the psyche of some people. Seeing constant suggestions of violent behavior constitutes “advocacy of the use of force or of law violation.” So, because violence in our entertainment advocates the use of force and law violation, censorship of much of the violent content that is prevalent today does not breech the First Amendment. Another argument common to this discussion is that people need to take responsibility for their actions and stop blaming violent entertainment and its makers for their actions. This argument works both ways. If the criminals are blaming the entertainment industry for their crimes then the entertainment industry blames the criminals for creating a market for violent games and movies. Blaming each other gets us nowhere. Being mature human beings that take responsibility for their actions is a much better way to look at this. If you get hit by a drunk driver and are seriously injured then that driver cannot say that you were responsible for the accident, he must take the responsibility for his actions and what they have done to you. It is the same with entertainment. Creators must take the responsibility of deeply affecting the psychology of America.

If we value a healthy and safe place to live in then we need to understand that what we fill our lives and the lives of the children of America with affects us all. We are a global community and that means that, more than ever, we should be responsible for our actions and hold bigger organizations accountable for theirs. Whether we like it or not we all affect each other and we must value our community as our family.

Works Cited:

 

(1) http://www.jacksonkatz.com/PDF/ChildrenMedia.pdf

(2) http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm/

(3) http://www.jacksonkatz.com/PDF/ChildrenMedia.pdf

(4) http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/addicted-violence-has-american-dream-become-nightmare

(5) http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/95-815.pdf

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments to “Time to Reduce Media Violence”

  1. Violence is a part of our lives and everyone has some kind of violence inside of them, However, watching movies or playing video games doesn’t enhance the effect of people going crazy. Many times it gives people excuses on why they would go out and do that. In other countries, violence movies is much higher than America, but they seem to be doing fine and their not doing things that they got from the movie. When the movies and games came out that had high violence in them the crime rates didn’t go up at all. I believe violence is within their household and environment at which they live at. Example, Virginia Tech was caused by students and teachers mistreating the victim which caused him to go haywire and shoot everyone. Violence isn’t the caused by movies and games and most people know not to do that.

  2. Television channels should also help to play a part in selecting the type of shows that are aired. The violent ones can be aired at later time slots when children are usually asleep.

  3. Japan’s homicide rate is much lower than the US’s and the violence in their media is much worse. Most Americans live pretty sheltered lives when you compare them to the rest of the world. I think it would be unrealistic to assume you would have a significant impact on the homicide rate by removing some movies and video games from the public. Think about how many jobs people would lose, and the negative economic impact a rash decision like that would make on our nation. Little overkill…

  4. Violence should not be a normal part of children’s lives. If it’s the case, they will grow into violent adults. I agree with the idea that to have a safer nation, we need to start with the children.

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