How Different Types Of Media Beget Violence In Youth


There is a famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , that states, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love. ” The part of the quote that stands out the most and has the most similarity to my research topic is: “Violence begets violence. ” This quote means that violence works like cause and effect, where violent behavior only promotes more violent behavior. The quote is also interpreted from the Gospel of Matthew in the bible. When Saint Peter is trying to use a sword to defend against the arrest of Jesus, Jesus tells him, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. ” This is important because many people believe if you are a violent person you will die by violence; and if you are exposed to a lot of violence, you may be influenced by it. Be that as it may, there is a lot of violence presented in mass media and in society. However, the question at hand is, does violence in media lead to violence in young men? This is an argument that can be presented in multiple categories, such as: literature, television, movies, music lyrics/music videos, video games, and Adult Films (Porn). Even the United States Surgeon General once said, “Research on violent television and films, video games, and music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts. ” Nonetheless, a counterargument also question whether the environment where a person is raised can determine whether they have to mimic the violence seen in media.

Violence in Media Throughout History & Literature

History of violence in media has been around even before mass media was created. Think back to the time of Plato, according to Griswold, Plato was concerned that reading and watching plays could possibly have harmful effects on the youth. Before mass media was developed by society, literature was a prevalent source of entertainment. Literature is used as a popular medium to communicate ideas and experiences to individuals from early childhood throughout their lifetime Think about it. Think of different cultures and how each country has scary story or “urban legend” that is passed down from generation to generation. Those folk tales were mostly to keep children on their best behavior, but the reason I mention that is because there are many plays that have been passed down and are still being read and acted out till this very day. For example, William Shakespeare, a famous English playwright, poet, and actor of the 17th century is known for his drama plays that present violence and death and has been performed since it was written. This goes to show even before mass media people were presented with mental and visual interpretation of violence. The first studies to research the impact of reading violent literature on an individual’s aggression death with comic books. The comic book form of literature includes a visual aspect of the context of the book. This implies that if there is any violence in the book there will be an illustration of it, which can be compared to cartoons.

According to Kirsh & Olczak, the researchers who conducted the study had the experimental group read violent comic books and the control group read non-violent comic books. After this step occurred, the researchers had both study groups complete projective measures, which included scenarios of inconclusive physical and relational aggression. Both groups participated by judging intent, retaliation, and assess the effect of an instigator. In the results, the experimental group bestowed a greater hostile intent to the instigator and proposed aggressive reprisals dissimilar to the group who read non-violent comic books.


By the 1960s televisions were in almost 95% of American homes. Television was a way most Americans received news coverage. Americans were able to see the violence they read about in newspapers unfold visually. Televised coverages of violent crimes such as: rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, were at an all-time high. Could this possibly make children want to imitate what they see? It is said before age 18 an average American youth will witness approximately 200,000 violent acts on television. In the 1960s there was normally only one television in the home, and predominantly it was located in the living room and watched during family time, which means parents were able to sensor what was presented to their children. In present day most youths have televisions in the privacy of their room, which implies that they can watch whatever they want to, with an exception if their parents have parental control over their channels. It is possible for youth to avoid violence in adult programming because there are channels such as Nickelodeon, Nick Toons, Boomerang, and etc. However, while watching those channels just listed, violence can be presented in it. For example, I have seen many of the cartoon characters running around attacking one another. Despite, the fact that it may not be seen as violence because it is a cartoon, hitting something or someone is apart of violence. Another issue with some children channels like Cartoon Network is, after 10 P. M, it changes to adult programing known as Adult Swim. This program is very gory and inappropriate. Just because it is a cartoon made for children, does not mean the physical actions taking place may be appropriate; these programs are able to juxtapose violence with humor. I believe cartoon violence can increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior. Another example of violence presented on the television is the show WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment. During this show many popular wrestlers go into a ring and fight in front of a large audience in an arena. Whether this wrestling is fictional or not, to children it is real and it is often mimicked in homes and even at school.


If you watch movies, it is not difficult to say that violence is often presented in majority of the genres especially in Action, Thrillers, Drama, and Horror. Additionally, Romance movies sometimes show a partner running away from domestic violence dispute. Even Disney movies, that are presented in the Children & Family category have a usage of violence, i. e. , Frozen, Mulan, and more. Normally, when a movie is extremely violent there are content warnings, such as: strong language, violence, imitable behavior, or viewer discretion advised. However, if parents are not monitoring their children, they can literally watch anything. With addition to the internet and websites like Netflix and Hulu, any one of any age can watch anything. As I read many articles I realized they claim that studies have shown a strong association between exposure to violence in the visual culture, and aggressive or violent behavior in viewers.

Throughout my research I learned that there has been court cases where fictional media has provoked real life violence. The case that I found most interesting was one that occurred in Liverpool, England. On February 12, 1993 two 10 year old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, abducted 2 year old James Bugler from a nearby mall and brutally tortured and murdered him. The two boys left Bugler’s mutilated on a railroad three miles away from where he was kidnapped. The official cause of the toddler’s death was ruled as beatings such as being punched, kicked and stoned, with the addition to, throwing paint on him, and into his left eye. There was CCTV of James leaving the mall with the two boys and a search for Bugler. On February 14 his body was discover by three young teens. Four days later, Venables and Thompson were arrested. A day later the boys appeared at South Sefton Magistrates Court, where they were sentenced to 8 years in prison. In A scene in 1991s Child’s Play 3, possessed Chucky dies after being splattered with paint and having its face beaten, similar to how Bugler was murdered. Even though the Child’s Play 3 theory never really played out in court, many people believed that the movie may have played a major influence on Bugler’s murder, considering the similarity with the paint and the death scene.

Music Lyrics & Music Videos

Music plays a major role in society and socialization, many people often use Music as a way to soothe themselves, or place them in whatever mood they desire. Music can be heard just about anywhere and easily accessible through the radio, internet, apps, shopping centers, literally anywhere. Since this is so accessible, it makes it more difficult for parents to put parental control on it. Often times parents are unaware of the lyrics their children are listening to because most of the music are either on their phones or they are listening to it through their headphones. Since music has the ability to put you in a certain mood, people can be influenced by the lyrics they may be able to relate to. The issue that is at hand when it comes to that is people can be influenced by the music in a negative way. Today it is typical to place rap in categories such as gangster rap, trap, or hood music and make a connection with aggression and violence. Even though I do not completely agree with this, I do agree that the some of the lyrics are very raunchy and somewhat promote violence even if it is unintentional. Many lyrics have become more explicit, especially when it refers to drugs, sex, and violence. More than likely if the song lyrics pertain to those aspects the music video will show an unquestioned amount of exposure to violence, sex, and drugs. This can possibly lead to significant change in behavior and attitudes amongst young viewers.

According to a study done of how antisocial lyrics can effect someone, “Barongan and Hall (1995) reported a study suggesting that antisocial lyrics can affect behavior, but the target behavior was not clearly aggressive; thus, its relevance to our work is unclear. Male college students listened to misogynous or neutral rap music, viewed three vignettes (neutral, sexual–violent, assaultive), and then chose one of the three vignettes to be shown to a female confederate. Those who had listened to the misogynous music were significantly more likely to choose the assaultive vignette”.

The 1988 song F*** the Police by N. W. A, sparked a lot of controversy because the lyrics were said to promote violence against police officers. An example of violence in the lyrics is the verse where Ice Cube says “Ice Cube will swarm on any motherfucker in a blue uniform just ‘cause I'm from the CPT punk police are afraid of me Huh, a young nigga on the warpath and when I'm finished, it's gonna be a bloodbath of cops, dying in L. A yo, Dre, I got something to say” This excerpt from the song along with the chorus “Fuck the police (x4)” made police and certain civilians feel as if the group wanted people to revolt against police and stir up chaos in the state of California.

Another song that has been rumored to cause violence is the song called “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People. This song has been rumored to be an influence for school shootings. The lyrics are as follows: “Yeah found a six shooter gun in his dad's closet hidden oh in a box of fun things, I don't even know what but he's coming for you, yeah he's coming for you. All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you'd better run, better run, out run my gun. ” Even though the writer of this song claimed that this song was not intended to promote violence, a lot of people disagreed. Mark Foster, the song writer, claimed that he wrote the song to raise awareness about the spark of teenage mental illness and gun violence. Foster also told an interviewer that he wanted to write a song about real world issues in youth culture and the song in the perspective of someone dealing with the mental issues. Even though Foster has a great reasoning behind the making of the song, I believe that this could have easily been an anthem for those who are contemplating getting revenge on those who have harmed them.

Video Games

There has been many debates that claim young children are often influenced by the violent video games they play. This makes parents pick and choose what games they want to play. This makes parents pick and choose what games they want their children to play. Similar to explicit movies and music, most violent games have labels that indicates what age group it is most suitable for. For example: E for Everyone, T for Teen, M for Mature 17 plus, and Ao for Adults only. Video games do not only require your complete attention. Nina Huntemann argues, “You have interact with the game psychologically and emotionally. You’re not just watching the characters. ” This implies the once you begin playing the game you mentally transform in the avatar you are playing, along with following protocol to win the game. This also explains why it is said that people who often devour their time into video games, often get confused about reality and the fictional aspects of the game. With the roles of aggressors and soldiers violent games tend to reward players for the violent behavior that causes them to successfully win the games. Studies have shown that there is a significant association between violent content with an increase in aggression, and a decrease in positive social behaviors.

10 October 2020
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