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Violent Media and Children Essay


Introduction

From the perspective of most parents violent content in the form of fist fights, shootings, murders and an assortment of other similar actions should not be viewed by children due to the possibility of subsequent emulation or if such actions have an adverse impact on the way in which their child develops.

Several studies examining early childhood development do indicate that a child’s formative years (age 4 to 12) is a period in which they begin to develop the behavioral characteristics and ideologies that influence their subsequent adult behaviors and actions (Hansen & Zambo, 2007).

Aspects related to religion, culture and ideologies introduced during this early stage of development reflect well into adulthood and become an integral aspect of who a person is to become (Hansen & Zambo, 2007).

It is based on this developmental backdrop that parents and society developed the notion that early onset exposure to violent content will have an adverse effect on a child’s development and as such children should be inculcated early on with positive societal messages in the form of cooperation, peaceful action and other similar behavioral characteristics that espouse the creation of a socially acceptable persona.

Gerard Jones on the other hand espouses a completely different approach to early childhood development in which he states that the introduction of violent media in the form of comic books, cartoons and other similar forms of consumable media actually have a positive effect on children resulting in the development of independent, socially well adjusted children that from an early age are capable of utilizing what they perceive from violent media as a method of overcoming early onset fears and become more socially well adjusted as compared to their peers that have been exposed to little if next to no violent content.

Jones presents the notion that violent media enables children to experience the full gamut of emotions denied to them by their parents and society. In the words of Melanie Moore “it enables them to explore the inescapable feelings that they’ve been taught to deny and to reintegrate those feelings into a more whole, more complete and more resilient selfhood”. While such notions are relatively alien to the current prevailing societal consensus regarding children and violence it does make a valid argument.

Rage and anger are actually normal human emotions, while society disparages their utilization and expression it must be noted that they are normal feelings that have been with humans since the beginning of evolution. Coming to a complete realization of their effective utilization while at the same time limiting their use through calm analytic thinking is actually a rite of passage for most individuals.

What must be understood though is that Jones is not trying to espouse that children should be violent rather he presents the notion that aspects related to violence such as rage can actually have a positive effect on children. In his words “rage can be an energizing emotion, a shot of courage to push us to resist greater threats, take more control, than we ever thought we could”. It is aspects related to courage, taking control of life and energizing ones actions that Jones looks at as positive aspects of violent media for children.

In fact a cursory glance of most violent media directed at children shows stories which teaches individuals to overcome fears, aspire to greater heights and overcome adversity in order to achieve their dreams. Violent media directed at children should not be treated as a device that encourages violent actions but rather as a method of encouraging proper development which takes into account the gamut of all human emotions and not just a select few.

Impact of Violent Media on Children

Studies examining the impact of violent media on children have drawn up conflicting conclusions with some stating that violent media adversely affects children while others point out that there is little effect at all (Schechter et al., 2009). What must be understood is that the concept of violent media and its exposure to children has been generalized to include all forms of violent media and not separate it into varying degrees.

In the case of the argument presented by Jones it can be seen that he argues his point on the basis of the distinctly low level type of violence seen in comic books and some action based cartoons. Some studies involving the behavioral growth of children utilize high levels of violence as seen in several of today’s action movies and shows, however they tend to categorize these elements under the same genre as low level violent media (Schechter et al., 2009).

While it can be argued that showing children violent movies such as Saw or Kill Bill could cause the development of abnormal behavioral characteristics the fact is most children are more interested in low level types of violence as seen in comic books and cartoons as compared to the high levels seen in mature shows and movies utilized by researchers in their studies.

Studies examining the active interests of children unsurprisingly show a predilection towards watching popular cartoons, anime or reading comic books (Browne & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005). It was noted that 9 out of 10 children preferred watching cartoons and anime over mature programming and as such this shows that research utilizing violent mature programming as the basis of their examination are inherently flawed since most children prefer programs geared towards children.

Another factor that should be taken into consideration is the fact that even if a child should watch a violent mature show or movie it must be questioned as to whether or not they can actually understand most of the mature themes involved. On average children have a limited knowledge on the types of adult themes present in movies and shows geared towards mature audiences (Browne & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005).

In fact it was noted by one study examining the ability of children to accurately depict themes in mature rated programming that the respondents barely knew any of the actual relevance of the themes in the shows (Browne & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005).

Another notable factor that should be taken into account is the fact that even though several cartoons from the 1980s to the present show varying levels of violence long term studies examining the behavioral characteristics of children exposed to this particular form of media showed next to no abnormal behavioral characteristics.

In fact most of the children involved grew up to become relatively well adjusted individuals with few behavioral problems. It is based on this that it can be should be stated that certain forms of violent media have been proven to have little to no adverse effects on the behavioral development of children and as such should not be considered detrimental towards the proper development of children on the basis of the content being somewhat violent.

Pop Culture and Identification

One of the prevailing arguments against letting children see violent media is the supposed potential that exists of children imitating what they see in comic books and television shows (Huesmann, 2010).

Studies examining the effect pop culture has on children reveal that on average children, especially young children, have the tendency to emulate child pop culture icons such as Hannah Montana, Spongebob Squarepants and other similar forms of identifiable imagery (Huesmann, 2010). In fact this behavioral aspect is even noted in members of the adult community and as such is the basis for many arguments stating the potentially harmful effects violent media could have.

What must be understood is that the arguments being presented neglect to take into account the fact that parental influences play a contributing and limiting factor to some aspects of a child’s behavior and as such should be trusted as a means of enabling children to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong (Anderson, 2011).

In fact, various studies have even shown that parental influences play a major role in personality development resulting in either proper growth and maturity or the instilment of negative personality traits similar to immaturity, dependence, and an overall sense of being unable to become self-reliant.

The development of a child’s behavior is not dependent on consumable media alone but rather on how parent’s influence and mold a child’s behavior.

As such even though violent media is introduced to a child it can be stated that so long as parents are there to enable a child to distinguish right from wrong then there is little cause for concern. It must be noted though that in cases where there is a distinct degree of parental absenteeism a child’s behavioral development will thus be predominantly influenced by external sources which should be a cause for concern since such instances have been shown to be influential factors in the development of abnormal personality traits.

Development and Human Emotion

Studies examining the prevalence of independent action and initiative in children show that on average children with the most well rounded set of emotional development often show the most drive and initiative when it comes to independent action and leadership roles (Wagner, 2004).

While Jones may not explicitly state it in his article it is actually implied that children who are not exposed to certain types of violent media tend to not develop independent personalities but rather take on dependent behavioral characteristics.

It must be noted that society’s adherance to the belief that violence is bad for children has resulted in parents developing parental practices that espouse peaceful behavior and nonviolence. In fact such practices have grown to such an extent that the concept of social conformity and peaceful behavior is often forced upon children resulting in the suppression of the development of certain aspects of their emotional makeup.

This results in children developing behavioral characteristics akin to dependence, conformity and a distinct lack of initiative due to a form of trauma in which they associate aspects related to socially unacceptable conduct to the suppressive actions of their parents.

This causes them to withdraw into themselves rather than become more expressive. As Jones notes in his article children that are allowed to be exposed to violent media tend to be more expressive, open minded and have more access to the full gamut of their emotional capacities compared to children whose emotional growth has been inadvertently suppressed by their parents.

What must be understood is the fact that current day parental practices assume that exposure to violence is bad based on preconceived societal notions when in fact there have been few studies which have actually successfully connected violent media exposure to the children developing into violent adults.

In fact for the most part children exposed to violent cartoon series or comic books appear, for all intents and purposes, perfectly normal and turn into well rounded individuals. It must be noted that the parental predilection to believe that violent media has negative implications on children is grounded in institutional theory.

Institutional theory specifically states that people have the tendency to adhere to traditional institutions rather than move towards more efficient newer institutions due to their belief that older institutions are more stable due to prolonged length of time that they’ve been around (Hess & Hess, 1999). In this particular case parents adhere to a specific type of social institution that believes that violent media will create violent children and adults.

Several studies examining parental predilections towards this particular type of institution have noted that when questioned as to why they adhere to the social institution in question the essence of all answers given show that parents do so due to their belief that since the institution has been around for such a long period of time and that it is widely accepted means that it must be right (Spitzer, 2005).

What must be understood is that just because a social institution is widely accepted and has been around for a long time doesn’t make it automatically right.

For example, one of the most widely accepted social institutions in the past was the belief that men were superior to women, this resulted in women being thought of as incapable of doing certain jobs, that the place of a woman was at home and that women did not have the right to decide the future of a country.

Suffice it to say, such a view has been recently debunked however it must be noted that it had persisted for several hundred years with most of human culture adhering to its tenets. It is based on this that the social institution advocating that violent media is bad for children should not be immediately credited as being absolutely correct. Historical precedent has shown that not all widely accepted societal views are correct and thus this one should not be considered as an absolute truth.

Conclusion

Based on the various examples presented it can be seen that the preconceived notions attached to violent media are in fact fallacious and heavily embedded in parental practices that originate from a social institution that may not necessarily be correct. As it was shown by both Jones in his article and in the various other studies cited, children that are exposed to violent media in the form of comic books and cartoons develop into mature and behaviorally stable adults with few problems.

In fact when taking the views of Jones into consideration it can even be stated that the introduction of violent media can in fact enable children to develop stronger and more independent personalities that will enable them to express themselves better, take the initiative more and be more likely to overcome adverse situations as compared to their peers that were not exposed to violent media.

While it may be true that when parents prevent their children from viewing violent media they are under the belief that they are in effect helping their children grow into better adults but the truth is what they are doing is in effect stunting the full emotional growth of their children. As explained earlier traits related to violence such as aggression are inherent parts of a person’s normal emotional makeup and as such are a necessary aspect in enabling an individual to grow into an emotionally stable person.

Negative emotional qualities help to balance the positive aspects of an individuals personality so as to enable them to live a balanced life. By denying children the ability to develop the full gamut of their behaviors from an early stage parents are in effect hindering them from being able to mature at a normal pace which may actually lead to the development of abnormal personalities.

This can take the form of dependence, childishness and the inability to take care of oneself without being instructed. It is based on this that in the case of allowing children to view violent media this paper agrees with the argument of Jones and also advocates it use so as to enable children to develop a more well rounded set of behavioral traits.

Reference List

Anderson, C. A. (2011). Violent Video Games and Other Media Violence (Part I). Pediatrics for Parents, 27(1/2), 28. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Browne, K. D., & Hamilton-Giachritsis, C. (2005). The influence of violent media on children and adolescents: a public-health approach. Lancet, 365(9460), 702-710. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Hansen, C., & Zambo, D. (2007). Loving and Learning with Wemberly and David: Fostering Emotional Development in Early Childhood Education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(4), 273-278.

Hess, T. H., & Hess, K. D. (1999). The effects of violent media on adolescent inkblot responses: Implications for clinical and.. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55(4), 439-445. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Huesmann, L. (2010). Nailing the Coffin Shut on Doubts That Violent Video Games Stimulate Aggression: Comment on Anderson et al. (2010). Psychological Bulletin, 136(2), 179-181.

Schechter, D. S., Gross, A., Willheim, E., McCaw, J., Turner, J., Myers, M. M., & …

Gleason, M. (2009). Is maternal PTSD associated with greater exposure of very young children to violent media?. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 22(6), 658-662.

Spitzer, M. (2005). Influence of violent media on children and adolescents. Lancet, 365(9468), 1387-1388. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Wagner, C. G. (2004). Aggression and Violent Media. Futurist, 38(4), 16. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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IvyPanda. (2019, November 28). Violent Media and Children. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/violent-media-and-children/

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"Violent Media and Children." IvyPanda, 28 Nov. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/violent-media-and-children/.

1. IvyPanda. "Violent Media and Children." November 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/violent-media-and-children/.


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IvyPanda. "Violent Media and Children." November 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/violent-media-and-children/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Violent Media and Children." November 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/violent-media-and-children/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Violent Media and Children'. 28 November.

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