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Media Violence and its affect on young people
(material gathered from MediaWatch, Media Awareness Network and UNESCO)

The debate over media violence has been ongoing for many, many years dominated by one question—whether or not media violence actually causes real-life violence.

On one hand, there are those who blame media violence for societal violence and want to censor violent content to protect children. On the other hand are those who see regulation as censorship and media images are not at the root of violence in society.

Violence has always played a role in entertainment. But many believe that in recent years the problem of media violence has changed. For one thing, there's more of it. More channels, more shows, more movies, music videos, etc.

A study done by Laval University professors Guy Paquette and Jacques de Guise found that between 1993 and 2001, incidents of physical violence in media increased by 378 per cent. For example, TV shows in 2001 averaged 40 acts of violence per hour.

This study as well as other recent studies show that nearly 10% of violence in television, movies and music videos is committed by the "good guys." Violence is presented as justifiable, natural and inevitable -- the most obvious way to solve the problem.

On television and in movies children are exposed to a continuum of violence, which ranges from the in-your-face attitude of shows like South Park to guns/fighting in shows such as ‘Cops', ‘Alias' and movies such as the ‘Terminator'.

Music and music videos are pushing into new and increasingly violent territory. For instance, his song Kim graphically depicts him murdering his wife; and "Kill You" describes how he plans to rape and murder his mother. Eminem's is not the exception. There are many music artists who use violent lyrics and images in their songs and performances.

But television, movies and music videos are not the only media streams to use violent images.

Violence is also a staple of the video game industry. The current trend is for players to be the bad guys, acting out criminal fantasies and earning points for attacking and killing innocent bystanders. Although these games are rated M, for mature audiences, it's common knowledge that they are popular among pre-teens and teenaged boys. Some examples include "Grand Theft Auto 3" "Duke Nukem" and, "Postal".

Web Sites: Virtual violence is readily available on the World Wide Web. Children and young people can download violent lyrics (including lyrics that have been censored from retail versions of songs), and visit Web sites that feature violent images and video clips.

Nightly news coverage has become another concern to media watchers: The Nightly News continually features disturbing images of violent crime. There's a saying in the tv news business: "If it bleeds, it leads." Violence and death, they say, keep the viewer numbers up. Good news doesn't.

Whether or not exposure to media violence causes increased levels of aggression and violence in young people is the question. Some experts argue exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively and affects them as adults, in years later while others say that scientific evidence simply does not show that watching violence either produces violence in people, or desensitizes them to it. Still others look at the ways in which media violence primes or cues pre-existing aggressive thoughts and feelings.

Some research also indicates that exposure to real world violence, together with exposure to media violence, creates an "overload" of violent events. Young people who experienced this overload are more likely to use violent media images to create and consolidate their identities as members of an anti-social and marginalized group. While another study states that family attitudes and social class are stronger determinants of attitudes toward aggression than is the amount of exposure to TV.

And the debates continues.

Organizations such as Media Awareness Network, MediaWatch and Concerned Childrens Advertisers help consumers put media violence in perspective. These organizations believe that while research is inconclusive regarding the effects of violence in the media, media images do provide a model, a standard for what may be considered normal and acceptable. They believe in educating consumers of media. Providing young people with the tools to respond thoughtfully and critically to media content. It may not change their video/movie choices but it can help them put media violence into perspective.

What is a violent act? It can be ~

a. physical: threatening/bullying, pushing/shoving, hitting/punching/kicking, shooting/stabbing, vandalism and dangerous behavior

b. emotional: yelling, put-downs, name-calling, or dumping on someone (transferring unrelated anger to another person)

Write a story on media violence. Check out the links below as well as other resources to learn about violence in the media, CRTC and other regulations regarding violence.

Here are some ideas/questions to help you develop your story.

  1. Take a 2-3 of hours and watch television. Within those hours how many types of violent acts have you seen (include physical and emotional acts). What does this tell you about society? What are your greatest concerns? What would you like to see changed and why?
    NOTE: Younger students should discuss this activity with parents/teachers).

  2. Think of your favourite show, movie or video game. Do you think it is violent based on the definition of violent acts listed above? Were there lots of violent acts in your show? Were you surprised with the number of violent acts?

  3. Media violence is often used to perpetrate myths and stereotypes about people. In shows you watch on television or on video who is committing the acts of violence – men, women, white people, minorities? Who are the victims of violence – men, women, old people, children, white people, minorities?

  4. Get together with a group of your friends and classmates. What are their thoughts regarding the amount of violence in television, movies, music, games?

  5. If you are concerned about the amount of violence in media, what can you do about it. Check out media education websites listed below. If one show in particular concerns you, contact the station airing it or the maker/producer. Other organizations to contact include the CRTC and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

  6. Discuss the issue of freedom of expression and the need to protect children. Many countries have taken steps to introduce regulations or to pressure the media to adopt forms of self-regulation. The United States has made the V-chips and Canada has introduced a code of ethics for broadcasters.

(use the search feature on some of these sites - violence in media)


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