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Exposing children to aggression in the mass media predisposes them to aggressive behavior. Research shows that this observation emanates from physiological, psychological and situational variables. In order to show that there is a positive correlation between observance of violence in the mass media and aggression in children, one must back the above-mentioned variables with proof from scientific analyses as seen below.
Denny (2011) explains that violent media causes aggression in children by changing their brain patterns. Therefore, the negative effects emanate from physiological changes in the viewer’s body. In an experiment quoted by the latter author, a group of young men were divided into two categories. All participants had minimal exposure to violent video games before the experiment. One group was subjected to violent video games for a period of ten hours a week.
The control group did not play any games within the study period. After exposure to the violent games, all participants’ brain functions were analyzed through magnetic resonance imaging. Researchers compared the findings after the intervention with the results prior to the experiment. In the tests, subjects were required to complete a task in which violent words were mixed with non violent ones. The left frontal lobe of the participants was analyzed and found to be more active in the control group than in the exposed group.
Additionally, the results in the control group were closely tied to the tests done before the experiment. However, the exposed group’s results were quite different from the initial findings. After one week of none exposure, the participants’ brain activities closely mirrored those of the control group.
Findings from this research indicate that exposure to violent videos has significant effects on a person’s ability to maintain functional or emotional control. When the left frontal lobe is less activated, then people tend to report less control of their emotions or their functions. As a result, one is likely to become aggressive. Although this research was carried out among young adults, one can deduce that the same effect would be reported among children who have even less control of their emotions.
Psychological issues also provide a tangible explanation of how aggression can emanate from exposure to violence in the mass media. The social learning theory explains that children learn from their surroundings. They first observe phenomenon around them such as violence. Most of them will eventually mimic this behavior as will be seen in their interactions with other children. After imitation, the children will eventually adopt the behavior, and this is what predisposes them to aggression.
Prolonged exposure to media violence leads to over-learning of aggression-based structures. Some of the structures include having a belief that other individuals are innately aggressive and that violence is the best way to deal with them (Gentile et al. 194). Not all children will respond in a similar manner to violent mass media; some are more inclined to commit aggressive acts than others owing to their psychological profile.
If a child has certain personality traits, then he or she will be severely affected by video games or other similar violent activities. For instance when one is highly neurotic, that is; one who is too emotional, and susceptible to depression, then that child is likely to become violent after watching video games (“Violent video games” 12).
Additionally, a highly disagreeable child also tends to report higher levels of aggression than one who is responsive to others. Minimal conscientiousness also leads to aggression after exposure to violent mass media. A child with such a personality finds it easy to break the rules and act impulsively. If these traits are already present in a child and a parent fails to control exposure to video games, then chances are that the factors will amalgamate and lead to aggression (“Violent video games” 12).
In the psychological context, cognitive distortions also play a vital role in explaining why media violence can lead to aggression in children. Moral standards assist individuals in controlling their aggressive acts. It causes them to think about their actions and refrain from acting inappropriately owing to these tendencies. Sometimes people may abandon their moral standards about aggression when they believe that their actions are justified (Richmond and Wilson 350).
Usually, this occurs through the use of eight mechanisms. They include dehumanization, blame attribution, distortion of consequences, responsibility diffusion, advantageous comparisons, moral justification and the use of sanitizing language. All these processes cause a child or teenager to disengage from moral standards, and this makes it easier to display deviant behavior such as aggression.
A person can dehumanize another by refusing to give another person human qualities. This makes it easy to behave aggressively or violently towards that person because, in the mind of the deviant, he does not deserve pro-social considerations. Conversely, blame attribution occurs by placing the responsibility of the violent act upon the victim or other entities that have nothing to do with the assailant.
Video games tend to distort the consequences of violent behavior; in fact they reward it. They teach children that violence has no negative effects and should thus be pursued. In essence, such individuals can easily behave aggressively because they do not think about the effects of their actions upon others.
Responsibility diffusion ensures that the child has apportioned blame for violence to someone else. Video games and other violent sources of mass media make it easy to push aside one’s personal role in the commission of certain behavior. Advantageous comparison and moral justification occur when the person sees himself or herself as an attacker of another ruthless person.
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The child, therefore, has a justifiable motive which makes it desirable to use aggression against others. Video games often have many brutal adversaries that can only be countered through the use of violence. These justifications may be perpetuated in real life. Sanitizing language refers to the use of favorable words to describe deviant behavior. Such language covers up the intensity and seriousness of aggression among children and causes them to disregard or ignore the consequences of their actions.
Once children are exposed to violence for prolonged periods of time, they will develop an aggressive outlook owing to alterations in their beliefs, attitudes and biases. Gentile et al. (194) explain that all people have cognitive scripts that determine how they behave.
Exposure to media violence activates aggression-related scripts and this makes it more likely for the subject to display aggression in the future. These parties will become morally disengaged through the above mechanism and thus cause persons to justify violent behavior. It eventually leads to greater levels of aggression.
A study carried out by Richmond and Wilson (352) supported these theories and thus illustrated that violent mass media provides the right psychological environment to cause more aggression. The experiment was carried out among 51 males and 35 female subjects between the ages of 20.25 and 21.3. The researchers determined the rate of exposure to violent films, video games and music and then assessed how aggressive these individuals were.
The aggressiveness test involved analyzing participants’ propensity to harm or hurt others. It also entailed an analysis of anger through the emotional and physiological state of arousal within a subject. This test also considered hostility through measurement of ill will or resentment of others. The analysts found that the subjects who had disengaged themselves from moral standards were more susceptible to aggression and violence.
This result confirmed what other authors on the subject have stated before, but it added to the literature by showing how aggression occurs. It was confirmed that violent media facilitates cognitive distortion of moral values and thus perpetuates aggression. The findings were carried out among young adults but can also be applied to children as the same distortions do occur in minors.
In order to settle the debate on violent mass media and aggression in children, one must consider experiments that directly analyzed these variables. Gentile et al. (193) did a research that intended on finding the link between exposure to media violence and the use of aggression among children. 430 children from the third, fourth and fifth grades were selected for the study; therefore, the mean age for the participants was nine years.
The researchers obtained information from the children themselves about their media habits and their hostile attribution biases. They also asked their peers and their teachers to complete a survey on the aggressiveness or the positive behaviors of children in their classes. In this analysis, peers would respond to questions concerning physical aggression such as whether their classmates kicked, punched or pushed others.
They responded to questions on relationship-related aggression, such as the spreading of rumors and giving others silent treatment. Teachers and students also rated their peers’ aggression on the basis of their verbal attributes such as insulting or saying mean things about others.
Parents also corroborated information provided by the subjects concerning the media watching habits. The various levels of aggression or pro-social behavior were compared to the media watching habits. The researchers found that there was indeed a positive correlation between exposure to violent mass media among the children and physical, violent and relational aggression (Gnetile et al. 200).
The above study was strong in rigor and validity. Furthermore, many other researches support the same findings in this report. As such, one can state that these scientific methods prove that there is a positive correlation between observing violence in the mass media and aggression in children. Consistency and strong statistical significance testify to the truth behind this claim.
Exposure of children to violence in the mass media leads to aggression through physiological alterations. Research findings show that violent video games and other similar media platforms alter the brain’s ability to control emotions and this predisposes children to aggression.
Additionally, media violence exposure also alters subjects’ psychological structures. It causes cognitive distortions and makes it easier for children to justify aggressive behavior. This was supported by measures of moral justification and aggression in research. Observing media violence also increases the aggressive tendencies of children by intensifying the effects of certain personality traits such as neuroticism and disagreeableness.
Denny, Dann. “IU Research Links Violent Video Gaming with Brain Changes.” McClatchy – Tribune Business News. 05 Dec 2011: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web.
Gentile, Douglas, Coyne, Sarah and David Walsh. “Media violence, physical aggression adn relations aggression in school age children: a short term longitudinal study.” Aggressive Behavior 37 (2011): 193-206. EBSCOhost. Web.
Richmond, Jill and Clare Wilson. “Are graphic media violence, aggression and moral disengagement related?” Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 15.2 (2008): 350-357. EBSCOhost. Web.
“Violent Video Games and Young People.” Harvard Mental Health Letter. 22 September 2010: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web.