The Link Between Television Exposure And Violent Behaviour 

I am part of the first generation to be born into a media encompassing and digitally connected world. I did not witness a shift to online - I was born into it. I cannot remember a time where my household did not have at least one TV. Since the 1950’s TV has been a common item in most households, only getting more attainable and affordable as the years passed; as I grew up, the TV transformed from a box to a flat screen and found its way into multiple rooms in the house and on the devices we use daily, through forms like ‘Netflix’. There has undoubtedly been a massive social change, which is defined as “Changes to technology, social institutions, population, and the environment, alone or in some combination, create change.” With YouTube planted in front of crying babies and “42% of children 8 and younger” having their own tablet devices; technology has undeniably had a boom and massive shift in priority in the last two decades becoming something of a farfetched expensive dream to an everyday additive we can’t imagine our lives without. With children gaining access to TV and Video Media younger and younger, and as Samantha Bricknell (2008) states, levels of “recorded assaults and sexual assaults have both increased steadily in the past 10 years by over 40 percent and 20 percent respectively...both assault and sexual assault the rate of increase was greater for children aged under 15 years”. A consistent concern is raised: What are the effects of Television and media exposure on the human brain and behaviour and is it responsible for rising levels of violence in the youth? 

Children between the ages of 2-5 spend almost 32 hours in front of a Television weekly, it’s during our most vulnerable years where we shape our ideas, personalities and opinions, and it’s spent absorbing television and other video media, changes are bound to happen - both good and bad. Social Learning Theory, formulated by Albert Bandura, suggests that people “learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling”. He brought forward the idea that behaviour is learned from our environment through observational learning. In this day and age, a media engulfed upbringing is a new yet commonly accepted societal shift in reliance and obsession with technology, Media is accepted as a new environment to us. Therefore, kids raised in this new society are experiencing an upbringing unlike any before, with multitudes of effects on their behaviour, attention and patience. This brings me to my question, “What are the Effects of Television on Violence Behaviour?”, with kids watching action and crime films as such a young age, are they picking up any of the violence they see and assimilating it into their own behaviour. 

Throughout history we see that every major shift in society has both good and bad outcomes - does this exposure to Television and video media have a correlation with increased violent behavior, or does it have a polar opposite effect? 

In recent years many news articles have popped up cases of violence by young adults and teens who when convicted, blame the violence they see online through games and TV; in particular in 2006 an article by the guardian covered a 13 year old boy who murdered his Grandmother and other relatives after learning how to kill and dispose of bodies through depictions from TV programs. Dating even earlier in 1972, U.S General surgeon, Jesse Seinfield reported to congress that 'the overwhelming consensus and the unanimous Scientific Advisory Committee's report indicates that televised violence, indeed, does have an adverse effect on certain members of our society”. 

Most studies define it as “inflicting harm, injury or discomfort on persons or of damage of property”. Feshbach and Singer conducted a field study where they split a group of young boys from both preparatory schools and low socio-economical households and fed both groups a diet of specific films; Non-violent or Violent. Surprisingly, there was no difference in their behaviour displayed, which was monitored by adult supervisors and then coded to an instrument of Feshbach’s and Singer’s design to monitor their behaviour. 

The results showed that exposure to violent films did not increase violent and aggressive behaviour; in fact, those exposed to violent films actually expressed less violent behaviour, especially boys from low socio-economic backgrounds. This completely rebuts the point and concerns of guardians; in this case, watching violent films does not encourage and evoke violence in young boys but rather the polar opposite - making them less likely to act out violently and become more self-aware of their tendencies. 

So the limits and blocking of violent films by parents to their kids do not appear to be helping reduce violence in children; is it in fact enticing them to be more violent, having never seen the way violence pays off in media - the bad guy is always caught. 

09 March 2021
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