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Violence and the Mass Media

It is all too easy to dismiss the importance of violence in the mass media. Most of us grew up watching cartoon characters bop each other over the head, after all, and never felt the urge to buy a semi-automatic pistol and slaughter a dozen of our classmates. But the degree as well as the amount of violence that is present in the mass media grows each year with the result that every year children are exposed to more and more (and more lethal) violence. The result of this exposure to high levels of violence is that children become more accepting of violence and eventually more disposed to commit acts of violence themselves.

For a number of years, parents and researchers have worried about the effects of children's exposure to violence on television and in movies and especially in video games but were unsure whether or not there was any causal relationship between watching representations of violence in the mass media and violent actions. However, recent research suggests that watching violent imagery can actually prompt children to become more violent:

Widespread agreement now exists (including from the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics) that media violence can stimulate aggressive/violent behavior in some children. This does not mean only dramatic consequences like bringing a weapon to school, but how children interact with fellow students, teachers, parents and siblings. An overly aggressive child can damage the learning environment for other students as well (

It is important to keep a proper sense of perspective on this issue. Few (if any) people would put forth the argument that if children are exposed to even a single act of violence they will instantly become violent criminals. However, what many scholars and social activists do believe is that exposure to thousands of acts of violence (something that is increasingly the norm for chi...

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