Effect of Violence in Media on Teens

Author: Ann Kaneesh

Globalization and technological developmental have revolutionized the field of media. Media provides the global happenings to the whole humanity. India has been rapidly moving towards integration with the world market. One consequence of liberation is that the country has opened its doors to new information technologies. Media makes a huge impact on adolescents, because they are in a developmental stage of identity formation, risk taking, peer pressure, and puberty. They have difficulties in differentiating real from unreal. Media glamorises violence and it disinfects the consequences of violence. Ms. Kamla Mankakar, a senior journalist and member of the Indian film censorship board, says, “The exposure of the young minds to too much violence and sex through satellite television would seriously affect our long – held traditions and values…” When the violence is justified or portrayed as realistic, harmless and humorous or when it is rewarded, the teen gets attracted towards violence. The violence stimulates their mind, and they get thoughts and feelings related to violence or aggression. Such adolescents believe that violence is the right way to solve problems. Donald E. Cook, M. D, president of the American Academy of Paediatrics, said, “America’s young people are being exposed to increasing amounts of media violence through television, movies, video games and popular music.” This article elucidates the impact of media with its violent content programme on adolescents.

Media’s Impact on Personality Development

In human development, adolescence is a time of challenge and turbulence. Gondoli mentions that adolescence is a stormy period and it is a necessary and normal part of growing up. Erik Erikson says that the adolescents face a conflict between identity and role confusion. Their awareness about self begins to emerge and this is a period of identity formation. So they try different appearances and behaviours. They imitate peculiar behaviours of media characters. There is a relationship between individual’s personality and types of violence that are appealing. The adolescents, who are on high ‘sensational seeking’, will generally seek out novel and stimulating activities. The study done by Aluja Fabregat in 2000 shows that ‘sensation seeking’ adolescents watch more media with violent content. Arnett, in his study in 1995, found that high ‘sensation seeking’ among teens has even linked them enjoying graphic horror films and listening to heavy metal music. The adolescents face tough decisions regarding a number of dangerous behaviours. They experiment reckless activities. Their risk taking function is known as ‘adolescent ego centrism’. Adolescents learn and imitate novel aggressive acts from the movies.

They need some thing to believe in, so they search for trustworthy persons and ideas. They also search for such things from media characters. If they find it in them, they make media persons as their heroes. They also imitate the heroes’ life style. The teen also needs a sense of belongingness in a community. They are willing to sacrifice their moral standards and advice of elders to please their peers. When their friends introduce strange behaviours, pornographies and such kinds of medias, they hesitate to deny it due to the fears of becoming odd in their community.


Impact of violent content in Media

Research done by Wilson Kunkel in 1997 identified seven contextual features of violence that affects a viewer. The viewer learns aggressive attitudes and behaviours from attractive perpetrator. The perpetrator becomes appealing when s/he is made as a hero. Adolescents identify and learn from attractive role models according to Bandura, a social psychologist. If the violent actions in the media seems to be justified or morally defensible or rewarded, it can facilitate aggression to a viewer. The portrayals of weapons like guns, knives in media enhance aggressive responding among viewers. The media violence that seems to be realistic can promote the learning of aggressive attitudes and behaviours among viewers. When the violence is rewarded or unpunished, it increases the risk of imitating aggression. When the consequences of violence to the victims have no pain, the impact of violence will be more on the viewers. The violence that is portrayed as humorous has trivialized impact upon the viewers.

The parents should know the content of the media watched by their children. They can provide gospel medias and medias with good content. The relationship between parents and children can be strengthened through family prayers, picnics, and friendly sharing. So that the parents can make a positive impact on their children. Balanced parenting and acceptance by the parents can transform the children with behavioural problem due to media impact.

There is no single factor that propels an adolescents from non-violence to violence. Psychologists Brad. J. Bushman and L. Rowell Huesmann say, “True, media violence is not likely to turn an otherwise fine child into a violent criminal. But. . . someday, every violent show one watches increases just a bit the likelihood of behaving aggressively in some situation.” The adolescents who perceive media as realistic and who identifies strongly with violent characters, learn more from violent contents in medias. The angered adolescents are in a stage of readiness to respond, the aggressive actions in the medias. The adolescents, who are with social and academic failures, become social withdrawals and more television viewers. The adolescents, who are raised in homes with parental rejections and parental punishments, show stronger effects of media violence. The adolescents internalize the actions in the media and act out the violence. But the parents and church can play a vital role in saving the teens from the influence of media.