Violence in Media and the Youth (Vol. 1, No. 2)

In an unfolding sophistication of modern living, things have fallen apart and the centre cannot hold especially in this our very capricious age. Moving immediately into the brass tacks, it is noteworthy that the media is without a doubt, a highly significant aspect of contemporary youth’s lives.  It constitutes their most significant leisure-time pursuit by all standards. ‘Media’ includes the whole range of modern communication tools: television, the cinema, radio, photography, advertising, newspapers and magazines, recorded music and lyrics, computer and video games, the Internet (blogs, chats, podcasts, Skype, webcam, social networks online, Facebook, YouTube, Second life), and cell phones.

On the other side of the spectrum, it could be recalled that over the last quarter-century, violence in television programs, video games, Internet and other entertainment products for youths has gradually skyrocketed astronomically. Moreover, rising from decades of debates, there is now a general consensus that media violence is a risk factor and a kingpin that contributes to the unwelcomed development of aggressive behavior, fears and anxieties. In this article, therefore, I will briefly make a critical assessment on the veracity of the above claims about the psychic connection between media violence and serious real-life violence; I will also review the impact of media violence on the youths if the psychic connection is veracious, and indicate the vital role, that physicians or concerned personalities can play in helping to diminish this powerful cause of violent behavior in this our contemporary period.

ANY POINT OF CONTACT: Contrary to media headlines and public perceptions, there is little evidence of a substantial link between exposure to violent interactive games and serious real-life violence or crime. While it is difficult to determine which children who have experienced televised violence are at greatest risk, there appears to be a strong correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior within vulnerable “at risk” segments of youth.

Well, violence is not new to the human race; it is an increasing problem in modern society. With greater access to firearms and explosives, the scope and efficiency of violent behavior has had serious consequences. The recent school shootings and the escalating rate of youth homicides among urban adolescents could largely testify to this ominous trend.

Statistically, it is interesting to note that today 99% of homes have televisions. In fact, more families have televisions than telephones. Over half of all children have a television set in their bedrooms. This gives a greater opportunity for children to view programs without parental supervision, such that by the time a child is eighteen years old, he or she will witness on television (with average viewing time) 200,000 acts of violence including 40,000 murders. Research also revealed that Children (8 to 18) in the West spend more time (44,5 hours per week – 6,5 hours daily) in front of computers, television and game screens than any other activity in their lives except sleeping. More still, studies from a reliable source disclosed that children watch approximately 28 hours of television a week, more time than they spend in school and that television programs display 812 violent acts per hour; children’s programming, particularly cartoons, displays up to 20 violent acts hourly.

Following from the above statistics, media violence gives children a sense that violence is everywhere. This environment contributes to a greater risk of abuse and violence in our homes, workplaces and communities. Hence, vulnerable youth who claim to have been victimized may be tempted to use violent means to solve problems- Boko Haram in Nigeria is not far from this sort of carnage. Unfortunately, there are few, if any, models of nonviolent conflict resolution in the media. Additionally, youths who watch televised violence are desensitized to it. They may come to see violence as a fact of life and, over time, lose their ability to empathize with both the victim and the victimizer. Worse still, there is much concern about sites that may advocate violence, provide information on the creation of explosive devices, or reveal how to acquire firearms. Nonetheless, a psychologist testified that exposure to this kind of entertainment makes violence seem more acceptable and promotes violent thoughts and actions. In a contrary response, one may ask “What about the millions and millions of youths who play video games and don’t go out and kill random people on the street?”

Well, the causes of youth violence are multifactorial and include such variables as poverty, family psychopathology, child abuse, exposure to domestic and community violence, substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders. Besides, the research literature is quite compelling that children’s exposure to media violence plays an important role in the etiology of violent behavior as analyzed above. Meanwhile, violent video games, a game licensed by the U.S. Army to train soldiers to effectively kill, can cause children to have more aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviors and decrease empathetic, helpful behavior with peers. High level of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior

ANY WAY OUT: In the evolving unwelcome development, I wish to express the confidence that we should be speaking up to the networks, cable vendors, local stations, federal agencies, and our political officials to help insure that programming decisions are made with an eye open to the potential consequences of the viewing audience, and that when violence is present, there are adequate warnings provided to the public. Nevertheless, the arena of media violence is a new frontier where physicians can promote health through public education and advocacy. Although we are living in an increasingly sedentary world, parents should limit television to 1-2 hours daily and watch programs with their children, enabling them to address any objectionable material seen. Far more importantly, violent video games are the most recent medium to be decried by researchers, politicians, and the popular press as contributing to society’s ills. Necessarily, the youth should be intimated about the risks that their participation in the media, can provoke, particularly high in conflict situations and in non-democratic societies where public expression of opinions can result in reprisals

In conclusion, in an attempt to rescue the youth from the web of this terrible addiction, there is urgent need to Know, use and share the guidelines to surf the Net and also introduce “10 days without TV” that is a great exercise of responsible consumption, mental health and social mobilization. It makes verbal and physical violence go down as well as obesity. Let us therefore join ‘Voices of Youth’ (a Unicef website), dedicated to harnessing the educational and community building potential of technology to ensure that all children and young people can know more, say more and do more about the world they live in. These are few among many ways to see some silver linings at the end of a long dark tunnel.

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