[caption id="attachment_1665" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Image by Simon Howden"]
[/caption] To many adults today the correlation between viewing media violence and violent or deviant behavior among children is somewhat of a given. We seem to inherently understand that there is a “line” of acceptable viewing for young children especially, a fact which is reinforced by the more aggressive “ratings” systems used on television and video games. However despite these truisms, the proliferation of violence in media geared towards young people continues. With this in mind, researchers from the British Psychological Society (BPS
) presented a paper yesterday at the Society’s Annual Conference. Titled “Adult DVDs and Computer Games May Damage Children’s Mental Health,” this report condenses much of what we already know about media violence and children
and offers some keen new insights. Cataloging the Data
For this presentation, researchers Professor Kevin Browne of the University of Nottingham and colleague Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis looked through the sum total of media violence research for the past 18 years. Their conclusions seek to summarize the differing results of these studies and offer several tips for parents and educators moving forward. There were clear relationships between the viewing of media violence and the actions and behaviors of very young children, which jives with many of the preconceived notions that parents and educators already possess about juvenile violence
. However, the connections among older children and teenagers are much less linear. This is due, in part, to the nature of these studies. Despite connections between media violence and deviant behavior among older children and teens, the many other factors such as home life and exposure to actual violence, also have an extreme impact. This led Professor Browne to the following conclusion:
“…children from violent homes are already predisposed to anti-social behavior and delinquency and this predisposition influences their increased preference and memory for violent images from media entertainment and computer games. Compared to other children they are more likely to act out violent scenes and incorporate what they see into their violent acts.
"Therefore, violent media entertainment and computer games have to potential to actively increase the frequency of violent crime, in those children already predisposed to aggression as a result of adverse past experiences. By contrast, other children have a passive response to violent images and are more likely to develop a fear of crime and be desensitized to violence by others.”
Planning for the Future
While the conclusions of Professor Browne’s research are logical for many of us, their relationship to the entire canon of psychological research over the past 18 years gives some depth to the already-held assumptions about the role of media violence in children’s lives. Among his recommendations, Professor Browne encourages a system-wide public health response to the proliferation of media violence that much involve the government and education system
along with parents and caregivers. His hope is that a more comprehensive approach to this issue will ensure that future generations are better guarded from the ill-effects of media violence as well as safeguard their would-be victims from events that are clearly preventable.