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Influences of the Media: The Negative and Positive Aspects
Mindy Thayer
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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The media plays a major role in the attitudes of children, teens, and adults. There have been many arguments debating how the media affects the majority of the American population. Numerous studies have shown that although the media can have a positive effect on an individual, the vast majority of the nation is suffering from negative influences that the media depicts. The purpose of this essay is to examine scholarship on the issue of the biased presentation that the media portrays throughout society.

Many debates have taken place on the aspect of media violence. Some people suggest that the media is causing aggressive behavior while others feel that violence in the media can help reduce an aggressive drive. In Jonathan L. Freedman's article he mentions two conclusions "(a) exposure to and preference for violent programming on television is correlated with aggressive behavior; and (b) there is little convincing evidence that viewing violence on television in natural settings causes an increase in subsequent aggressiveness" (243). While many researches and psychologists have tested both of these theories hypotheses and tests have helped prove that both of Freedman's conclusions were correct because the media violence can have both a positive and negative effect on an individual. Leonard Berkowitz, Ronald Corwin, and Mark Hieronimus argues that one way the media can have a positive effect on its viewer is "when a villain is defeated aggressively - the consequences may be a weakening of restraints against hostility in angered audience members" (229). Seymour Feshbach and Robert D. Singer are also taking the same approach and outlook as Berkowitz, Corwin, and Hieronimus because they are suggesting children that see violence in the media are frightened because of the consequences that go along with the crime. Although these examples show that aggressive behavior on television can have a positive effect on its viewer. Berkowitz also throws up an important question to his readers because he says that "society has to decide whether the benefits of … aggression outweigh the cost" (424).

Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman have come to the conclusion that the media has an effect on adolescents and young adults. TV viewing is associated with subsequent aggressive behavior: Other scientific bodies have [also] come to similar conclusions. Six major professional societies in the United States - the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Psychiatric Association - recently concluded that "the data point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children (2)." (Anderson and Bushman 2377)

Berkowitz also agrees strongly with this quote from Anderson and Bushman because he uses the example of the Jack the Ripper case. After this case received National attention eight identical crimes took place in London and this also shows that the media played a major role in helping these murders take place.

Freedman has been debating as to whether television violence causes aggressiveness. Through research and numerous amounts of laboratory work a conclusion has been determined that viewing violent flims does in fact increase violent and aggressive behavior. Feshbach and Singer state "the presentation of violence has always been a form of enjoyment for children and adults" (2). Also Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman agree with Feshbach and Singer because they feel that "the impact of media violence began … when the motion picture industry became the major source of mass entertainment" (163). For example, Jen Yim has stated four ways in which children are affected by television: [1.] Children watch an average of over 28 hours of television per week. By the time the average child reaches the age of twelve, he or she has witnessed over 8,000 murders. [2.] Children's television programs actually contain five times more violence than the average prime time hour of TV. [3.] Children who spend more time watching violent television programming are rated more poorly by their peers, have fewer problem-solving skills, and are more likely to get in trouble with the law as teenagers and young adults. [4.] Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. Children who view movies, in which violence is very realistic, are more likely to imitate what they see. (Yim 1)

Some scholars have also suggested that motion pictures play a direct role in shaping criminal careers and increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior among viewers: "Watching violence is a popular form of entertainment" (Felson 103). For example; Richard B. Felson states, "local news shows provide extensive coverage of violent crimes to help increase their ratings" (103). There have been numerous discussions that debate whether or not the media has an effect on aggressive behavior. Felson suggests that some individuals feel that it seems unlikely that media violence causes higher crime rates, but it could be "reasonable to believe that the media directs viewers' attention to … forms of violent behavior [that] they [may] not [have] considered" (124). In relationship with Felson, Feshbach and Singer mention one hypothesis that has been discussed is that television programs and movies teach children how to use guns and knives and also teach them how to hurt someone. Although Felson strongly agrees that the media is having a negative effect on viewers he knows that he needs to take into consideration that the media has different effects on different viewers. Through Felson's research younger children seem to be more vulnerable to be influenced by television, but Felson and many researchers are still unclear if the media is having a positive or negative affect on its viewers.

According to Marites F. Pinon, Aletha C. Huston, and John C. Wright "most television use occurs in a broader context of family and community, and children's "choices" about what to view may be heavily influenced by the people and institutions that surround them" (846). Pinon, Huston, and Wright suggest that a child's behavior is based on the surroundings that they encounter. Anderson and Bryant also agree with these aspects but have suggested that four types of variables play part in educating and persuading children. Anderson and Bryant studied the children's sociological characteristics, availability of programs, family characteristic, and individual child attributes. As they studied the four variables they came to the conclusion that these variables play a major role in helping to develop a child's mind mentally, physically, and emotionally. Jen Yim's article relates to one of Anderson and Byrant theories because he makes a connection with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) that supports Anderson and Byrant's claim on children's individual attributes. One way that this television program is affecting younger children and teens attributes is because this television show involves people hurting one another physically and mentally and these children and teens find this to be a way of life that people participate in everyday. The television program, WWF, is one of the major contributing factors that is having a detrimental effect on children because they "cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality" (Yim 1). Yim further suggests that the WWF television corporation is not encouraging teens to act in violence, but by incorporating violent, sexual, and vulgar behavior in their television program they are influencing teens to use this as a mechanism for life. Yim also mentions that children are not only effected by television shows, but also by how violence is used in movies to resolve conflict, one example he uses is the movie "Home Alone"

Kevin, the main character, performs numerous acts of violence to defend his home and scare away the intruders. These acts of violence appear to be very real and could potentially hurt someone. The movie however, does not display the harmful effects violence can have on a person. Instead, violence seems to be portrayed as something humorous and children have a reason to laugh at an individual who inflicts deadly force onto another person. (Yim 2)

Yim Suggests that violence is a major problem in today's society because it is eliminating the sensitivity of an individual to the consequences of violence: "How do children develop to be so violent? Is violence genetically programmed in them even before they're born? The entertainment media plays a powerful role in the formation of values and morals in children" (Yim). One theory by Leonard D. Eron, Rowell Huesmann, Monroe M. Lefkowitz, and Leopold O. Walder suggests is that these violent behaviors acquire between the ages of eight and nine (critical period), but are not visible and effective until later on in life. A recent study was tested by Leonard D. Eron to determine if this was in fact a true statement:

It was found that the violence of programs preferred by the male subjects in Grade 3 was even more strongly related to aggression 10 years later. By the use of cross-lagged correlations, partial correlations, and multiple regression, it was demonstrated that there is a probable causative influence of watching violent television programs in early years on later aggression. (Eron 263)
Violent behavior in society is a definite problem, greatly influenced by television programs. These programs have turned the country from a happy loving atmosphere, to a chaotic place of fear. Anderson and Bushman have come up with a recent theory about human aggression that suggests two approaches to help reduce violent behavior. One states that there should be a reduction in exposure and the other involves changing children's attitudes toward violence. Although this is not a proven fact, the nation sees that something needs to be done to make society a better place to live. The country needs to act as one and come up with a solution to this problem. Although these television programs are not the only factor for teens' behaviors, the nation needs to find an answer to why children are participating in these acts, and these television programs seem to be a major contributing factor.

Works Cited

Anderson, Craig A., and Brad J. Bushman. "The Effects of Media Violence on Society." Science 295.5564 (2002): 2577, 2579.

Berkowitz, Leonard, Ronald Corwin, and Mark Hieronimus. "Film Violence and Subsequent Aggressive Tendencies." The Public Opinion Quarterly 27.2 (1963): 217-29.

Berkowitz, Leonard. "Some Effects of Thoughts on Anti- and Prosocial Influences of Media Events: A Cognitive-Neoassociation Analysis." Psychological Bulletin 95.3 (1984): 410-27.

Bryant, Jennings, and Dolf Zillman. Media Effects Advances in Theory and Research. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994.

Eron, Leonard D., L. Rowell Huesmann, Monroe M. Lefkowitz, and Leopold O. Walder. "Does Television Violence Cause Aggression?" American Psychologist 27.4 (1972): 253-63.

Felson, Richard B. "Mass Media Effects on Violent Behavior." Annual Review of Sociology 22 (1996): 103-28.

Feshbach, Seymour, and Robert D. Singer. Television and Aggression. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1971.

Freedman, Jonathan L. "Effect of Television Violence on Aggressiveness." Psychological Bulletin 96.2 (1984): 227-46.

Pinon, Marites F., Aletha C. Huston, and John C. Wright. "Family Ecology and Child Characteristics That Predict Young Children's Educational Television Viewing." Child Development 60.4 (1989): 846-56. Yim, Jen. The Effects of Media Violence on Children. 20 Aug. 1999. 16 Feb. 2005 <http://www2.hawaii.edu/~yimjenni/media.htm>.

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