Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Media Violence II

As I mentioned yesterday, immersion in media violence tends to cause individuals to develop “mean world syndrome”, to become desensitized to violence and/or to become more aggressive themselves.

Desensitization damages our sense of community. Individuals lose the ability to empathize with the victim. They develop the belief that violence is inevitable and do not protest or work against increasing levels of violence. More importantly, I think, individuals lose the ability to understand the consequences of violence. This latter component of desensitization contributes to a growth in violence, one of the most important contributors in my opinion. Lacking an appreciation of the consequences, violence becomes just another action. Violence can then be undertaken “lightly” because the outcome and the “other” are without consequence.

Watching violence increases aggression and violence less in a copy-cat sense, but more in the sense that values and attitudes begin to favor the use of aggression and violence to resolve conflicts. It is no longer an act of last resort but more of first retort.

To address violence, to decrease violent deaths and violence in our community, our approach must be multi-faceted. A singularly focused program/solution will be less than maximally effective. We need to limit or “balance” the violence in our media (that will be a tough one, violence “sells”). We need to address the “mean world syndrome”, paint a more realistic picture of violence in our communities while working to build the sense of community, the desire for community, the cohesiveness of community. We need to replicate (or develop) programs aimed at lessening the tolerance for violence, the teaching of the consequences of violence, the expansion of reaction choices beyond the choice of violence. The “solution” (and remember a solution is a mixture) is “messy”, not a neat and tidy single entity, but it is worth the effort—save a life, save a victim, limit suffering.


Anonymous said...

I know there have been studies on children who are exposed to violent/mean TV. No surprise that there's a link to seeing violence and to them using violence or meanness to solve conflicts. What are the latest stats on these studies? Is the problem getting worse? As a parent, how can I raise my children to be loving, caring adults? I can control what they see on TV at home but I can't protect them "out there". And "out there" is a really scary place. Where do we start???
Liz in Lake County Il

Dr. Richard Keller said...

Getting worse?: Over 1000 studies during the last 30 years demonstrate the effects I talked about in these 2 posts. It does appear that it is getting worse, but some of the studies do not show effects (increased violence) until 10-15 years after TV violence exposure (i.e. children 4-8 years old watching violence demonstrate the effects at ages 15-20) so there is some difficulty in measurements and observations. Don’t give up hope however, that the die is cast.

Raise kids: inculcate values(repeated “teaching” and modeling), teaching them violence isn’t right, that violence has consequences, that “the other” is another person not an object to be devalued, community needs to fostered and preserved