Unformatted text preview: deral research reports on media violence and youth (NIMH, 1982; U.S.
Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, 1972), this
overview was initiated within a broader examination of the causes and prevention of youth
violence. This context is vital, and we urge readers to take a close look at that report (despite our
misgivings about its treatment of media violence). It permits media violence to be seen as one part
of the complex influences on the behavior of children and youth. And it suggests that multilayered
solutions—including but not limited to solutions that address exposure to media violence—are
needed to address the problem of aggressive and violent behavior in modern society. Media
violence exposure is only one risk factor underlying aggression and violence. It may be the least
expensive risk factor to modify—it costs little to choose nonviolent forms of entertainment for
oneself or one’s children. However, the troubling truth is that violent media are entering the home
and inviting active participation of even very young children—often with little parental
The cup of research knowledge about violence in the media is relatively full but not
overflowing. It certainly supports sustained concern about media violence and sustained efforts to
curb its adverse effects. It suggests that simply reducing children’s exposure to violent media Anderson, Berkowitz, Donnerstein, Huesmann, Johnson, Linz, Malamuth, & Wartella 70 would be a positive step that would yield positive benefits. How best to approach the goal of
reducing exposure to violent media is a question that will require additional research into
intervention programs, as well as public policy debates.
Although at present, violence rates in the age group most prone to such behavior (i.e., early
teens to mid 20s) appear to be leveling off somewhat, this recent trend should not be misinterpreted
as a sign that concern with media violence is misplaced. As we have noted throughout this report,
violence is a complex interpersonal phenomenon that occurs when a host of contributing factors
converge at the right (or wrong) time and place. The large number of contributing factors points to
the complexities of understanding social and psychological causation in a context of human
development. The extant research literature clearly reveals that exposure to violent media plays an
important causal role in violence in modern society.
Similarly, the fact that estimates of the size of the effect of media violence are typically in the
small to moderate range should not mislead people into thinking that the overall impact of media
violence on aggressive and violent behavior is small to moderate. Because of the large numbers of
youth exposed to many hours of media violence, even a small effect can have extremely large
consequences (Abelson, 1985; Rosenthal, 1986). Although a correlation of .20 between viewing
media violence and aggressive behavior indicates that media violence may statistically account for
only 4% of the variation in aggressive behavior, few other factors account for much more. A
correlation of .20 can be said to represent a change in the odds of aggressive behavior from 50/50
to 60/40, which is not a trivial change (Rosenthal, 1986). Furthermore, the size of the mediaviolence effect is equal to or larger than the size of many medical effects that our society deems
large, such as the effect of condom use on sexually transmitted HIV, the effect of passive smoking
on lung cancer at work, and the effect of calcium intake on bone mass (see Bushman & Huesmann,
Despite limitations in current research knowledge, it is possible to develop a coherent Media Violence 71 public-health approach to violence prevention that builds upon what is known, even as attempts to
learn more are under way. Clearly, even without all the pieces of the research puzzle in place, a
troubling picture is emerging: A variety of violent media are entering the home and inviting the
active participation of young children—often with little parental supervision. Although additional
research to address unresolved questions is needed, it is clear that media violence is a causal risk
factor that should be addressed in thoughtful ways.
Regardless of the attempts made to limit the amount of violence reaching American
families, those families themselves are clearly critical in guiding what reaches their children.
Whether by adopting V-chip technology for home TV programming, subscribing to voluntary
violence screening by Internet providers, or simply monitoring closely children’s use of TVs,
computers, and video games, parents can reduce and shape their children’s consumption of violent
media. Communities—including schools, religious organizations, and parent-teacher
organizations—can teach parents and children how to be better, healthier consumers of the media.
Federal agencies can be more proactive in encourag...
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- Spring '13
- The Land, media violence, Leonard Berkowitz