Adventures in Media Literacy

Media and Violence

There are over 1,000 studies showing that violence in the media contributes to aggressive behavior. Especially vulnerable are young children who have difficulty differentiating media images and reality. In adolescence, high exposure to rap music videos have been found to promote violent behavior. Video games have also been found to promote aggressive behavior. It is estimated that over 200,000 acts of violence have been viewed on television by the average 18 year old.

In addition, the kinds of perpetrators and victims of violence in the media are disproportionately represented. For instance, in a study of video games, 9 out of 10 African-American women were victims of violence. The same ratio (90%) of heroic characters presented in video games were white. African-American males were more likely to be physically aggressive than other racial groups, yet when showed as the victim of violence, were least likely to show suffering or pain.

However, the television industry and its advertisers have steadily increased the amount of violence available to consumers. Here’s what one commentator speculated:

Violence is like the nicotine in cigarettes. The reason why the media has to pump ever more violence into us is because we’ve built up a tolerance. In order to get the same high, we need ever-higher levels… The television industry has gained its market share through an addictive and toxic ingredient.” -- Lt. Col. David Grossman quoted in The Arizona Republic, May 27, 1999 by Tim Madigan, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, A18

Media literacy poses a number of questions about violence:

1. How do hip hop celebrities who make videos that glamorize violence make money?

2. Do teens try to imitate the characters on TV who make violence look cool?

3. Does the way TV stations present crime influence how a community responds to violence?

For more information, please check out these links:

“Ask an Expert: Does the Media Cause Children to be Violent?” CNN, 2000.

“Adolescents with High Exposure to Rap Music Videos Exhibit Higher Levels of Risky Health Behaviors,” Emory University, February 28, 2003

“Some things you should know about Media Violence and Media Literacy” American Society of Pediatrics, 2003.

“Facts about the media and violence” 2003.

“Fair Play, Facts about Videogames” Children Now, 2001.

“Video Games and Aggression” Article with links to varying points of view on the subject.

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