Media violence 'unchained': Multiple studies show kids are adversely affected by violence in entertainment, news
Twenty years ago, though, she penned a piece for Media & Values titled "Violence Formula: Analyzing TV, Video and Movies" in which she described the formulaic aspect of media violence and its consequences.
"Children model behavior they see in the media," she wrote in 1993. "If kids don't see the consequences of violence, it teaches them that violence doesn't cause serious harm. When heroes use violence it sends a message that violence is an appropriate way to respond to problems."
Two decades later, Osborn's violence analysis looms large in how she educates her own elementary-age daughter about media. For example, on Friday nights mother and daughter watch a DVD together and then talk about it.
"I don't think of myself as (an especially) vigilant mother, but I'm uncomfortable with violence, period," Osborn said. "With other topics, I'm reading her — she's 8, and there's an emerging interest in sex and boys and babies. And so as I see her trying more to make sense of that, I try to bring it up by allowing her to see 'tween stuff.'
"... But I don't think I'm ever going to get to the point where I purposely expose her to violence. Violence is never going to be a part of my parental repertoire."
Violent media's influence
Researchers began to study the possible effects of violence in the media with the introduction of television in the 1950s. Since then, the number of studies on the issue has exploded.
The Center on Media and Child Health website, operated by Children's Hospital Boston, lists 368 studies on television and movies and their relationship to bullying and violence in children. The site also provides 125 studies about the effects of video and computer games on bullying and violence in youth.
The articles focus on different age groups and genders. They also offer different results. A longitudinal study from last year evaluating 700 elementary school-age children found that those who witnessed violence, including television violence, were more likely to consider it "normal." Researchers concluded that this desensitization could mean these children were more likely to use aggression with others.
Another article, published in 2009, evaluated 800 teenagers on their preferences in video games, television and movies. Researchers found that those who preferred violence in the media they consumed were more likely to behave aggressively, suggesting, according to the abstract, "use of violent media may increase the risk of violent behaviors among teenagers."
Because of the long history of this branch of study, some researchers have reviewed the literature in order to examine all the evidence. John Murray of Kansas State University published a review in 2008 titled, "Media violence: The effects are both real and strong."
In his abstract, Murray asserts that "50 years of research on the effect of TV violence on children leads to the inescapable conclusion that viewing media violence is related to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behaviors."
Similar views have been published by a number of institutions, including the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians. They conclude that exposure to violent media can result in desensitization, increased aggression and an exaggerated view of the amount of violence in the everyday world. — Laura Marostica, Deseret News
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