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Media violence: What we know, and what we may never find out

Published: Monday, Aug. 26 2013 4:05 p.m. MDT

Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) in "Django Unchained."

Andrew Cooper, SMPSP

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Three forensic psychiatrists jointly authored an article for Sunday’s New York Times that distills decades of scientific research about the effects of media violence into digestible language.

“There is now consensus that exposure to media violence is linked to actual violent behavior — a link found by many scholars to be on par with the correlation of exposure to secondhand smoke and the risk of lung cancer,” wrote Vasilis K. Pozios, Praveen R. Kambam and H. Eric Bender.

“The question of causation, however, remains contested," they continued. "What’s missing are studies on whether watching violent media directly leads to committing extreme violence. Because of the relative rarity of acts like school shootings and because of the ethical prohibitions on developing studies that definitively prove causation of such events, this is no surprise.

“Of course, the absence of evidence of a causative link is not evidence of its absence.”

Earlier this year the Deseret News reported about media violence and some practical applications of the existing scientific literature about how violent media may affect children: “To protect children from media violence, Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor Eugene Beresin encourages parents to adopt a customized approach based on factors such as a child's age and maturity. … Beresin also believes children will consume media more responsibly if they can be made to understand that wise media consumption will catalyze greater freedoms, and vice versa.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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