Today, television is the mainstream medium, which influences substantially the public opinion and, what is more, it has the power to influence the formation of an individual’s identity. In such a situation, the television violence has a particularly significant and dangerous impact on the audience, especially youth, whose identity, moral values and beliefs are in the process of formation. At the same time, it is important to remember about the fact that television is only a part of a large impact of mass media on human consciousness and identity. Therefore, the impact of television violence on youth should be viewed in the context of the overall impact of media violence on youth. In the contemporary world, the impact of media on the behavior of people can hardly be underestimated.
Media have become a powerful tool with the help of which it is possible to shape the public opinion. Media affect life of each individual and the entire society because nowadays media are everywhere. In fact, people are constantly bombarded with information they receive from various media which they may access twenty-four hours a day. In such a situation, it is very important to prevent possible negative impact of media on people. It is not a secret that media cannot only influence but also shape identity of an individual and, in such a situation, it is extremely important to provide a meticulous control over media, especially in relation to violence in media which may affect dramatically people, especially children. In fact, today, the violence in media is almost a norm and its impact on the psychology of an individual is very significant. This trend is likely to grow stronger in the future and, if the violence in media is uncontrolled, it is likely to result in the tremendous growth of violence in the real life. Therefore, the necessity of the control over media’s representation of violence arises. In this respect, the most effective tool of control over media is the government control or, to put it more precisely, censorship, but such a measure provokes serious opposition. The opponents of the introduction of the governmental censorship over media to control violence represented in media is argued to be a threat to the freedom of press because, along with a possible positive impact of the censorship due to the essential limitation of violence in media, it can also lead to the misuse of power by the government that may undermine basic democratic principles of the modern society.
On the other hand, the introduction of the government censorship is not the only way in which the negative impact of television and media violence can be prevented. At this point, it is important to remember about the power of television and media, which can be used for good of people. What is meant here is the fact that the introduction of special educational programs and the formation of a new philosophy of TV channels and other media can contribute to the positive impact of television and media on youth. Moreover, television can potentially become a powerful educational tool, which can back up the school education of children and expand their eyesight and personal philosophy substantially contributing to the formation of truly humanistic personality of modern youth. In such a way, it is extremely important to shift the television and media focus from violent issues to humanistic values to prevent degradation of the nation and to form truly universal values in the youth.
The representation of violence in media
On analyzing the negative impact of television violence on youth, it is primarily necessary to dwell upon the representation of violence in modern mass media. As it has been already mentioned above, television is the mainstream medium in the modern world, which influences consistently the public opinion and an individual’s identity. Naturally, television violence can hardly fail to influence the consciousness of youth since young people often perceive celebrities they see on TV and imaginary characters they see in movies as models of their own behavior. As a result, they attempt to follow their lead, which often leads to the development of negative, dangerous or even delinquent models of behavior if violence is abundantly present on television. In such a context, the way violence is represented in television and media at large is particularly important because it shapes the youth’s attitude to violence in the real life.
In this respect, it should be pointed out that modern media are characterized by the excessive amount of violence that cannot fail to affect the audience, especially children. Specialists underline that nowadays “violence dominates television news and entertainment, particularly what we call “happy violence” – cool, swift, painless, and always leading to a happy ending in order to deliver the audience to the next commercial message in a receptive mood” (Is Media Violence Free Speech 1) At the same time, the negative impact of violence in media increased substantially in the result of the wider spread and practically permanent impact of media on people. It proves beyond a doubt that violence always exposes the audience to the risk of certain psychological problems and can increase aggressiveness of people. At any rate, the impact of violence in media may be destructive on psychological and moral development of children.
Furthermore, media violence and television violence in particular often tends to romanticize the image of violence and violent characters. In this respect, it is possible to refer to movies which are released en mass and which contain violent scenes. However, the presence of violent scenes in films is not as dangerous as the way the violence is represented. Many movies have the main character who is inclined to the violent behavior. In this respect, it is worth mentioning movies starring celebrities such as S. Stallone, A. Schwarzenegger, or Clint Eastwood, whose movies became classics of the violent movies and the trend to the creation of such movies is still very strong.
At the same time, these movies, being renowned and extremely popular, especially among youth, depict the main character, who is the protagonist of a movie, as a violent but good person. Moreover, violent acts committed by the main character are justified, if not to say welcomed. As a rule, the main character commits violence in response to some injustice in relation to himself or his family members. Consequently, such movies convey a clear and understandable message to the youth: violence can be justified and violence can be used to prove the righteousness of a person. However, such movies do not even hint at the fact that violence, if it is committed with good intentions, is still violence.
In this respect, it is important to understand that children and adolescents cannot clearly define priorities in their actions and, if they see that violence is justified and it can be used by their heroes, which they see in their favorite films, they naturally perceive violence as a justifiable action. Consequently, instead of preventing youth from committing violent acts movies often justify violence. At this point, it is also worth mentioning the fact that main characters of movies often do not even attempt to negotiate, instead, they use their physical force to punish villains, protect themselves and their families and prove their righteousness. In such a way, movies convey the message that being violent does not necessarily mean being bad and, what is more, violence is worth using since it is effective and justifiable means which can be used to meet desirable ends.
In actuality, the effect of violence is always negative on human psychology because people get used to violence. As a result, they do not perceive violent acts or offenses as something abnormal. Instead, they treat violence and aggressive behavior as a norm. In this respect, “happy” violence may be even more dangerous because it contributes to the positive perception of violence. What is meant here is the fact that people viewing “happy” violence in media do not have any negative emotion. In stark contrast, such violence seems to be funny and amusing. Such a view on violence formed by media results in the growing violence in real life situations, because people lose control over their behavior and they use violence as an effective tool to prove the righteousness of their position, for instance. In this respect, children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effect of the “happy’ violence. The problem is that children cannot distinguish such concepts as good and evil. Therefore, if they are “happy” while watching violence on TV they form a positive attitude to violence, to the extent that they can believe that violence is good. Eventually, they extrapolate their experience of viewing media on the real life that leads to the aggressive and violent behavior of children. Many specialists (Tolson, 149) point out the fact that children attempt to follow the models of behavior they acquire while watching TV or playing video games, etc.
Moreover, nowadays, in addition to traditional media, such as TV, children, as the part of the audience which is the most susceptible to the negative impact of violence in media, have access to Internet, they play video games which may also contain a lot of violent acts. As a result, they acquire wrong or, to put it more precisely, violent models of behavior. At the early age they cannot distinguish between such concepts as good and bad. This is why they imitate the models of behavior they learn from TV, Internet, video games, movies, etc. As a result, the violence in media contributes to violent and aggressive behavior of children and negatively affects the formation of their personality (Barker, 64). However, the impact of violence in media on adults may be also very significant since it also stimulates anti-social behavior of people since the abundance of violence in media changes the perception of violence as abnormal, anti-social act, instead, it is perceived as a norm. In such a situation, the number of those who “blame media violence for societal violence and want to censor violent content to protect children” (Bagdikian, 138) steadily grows.
The impact of media violence on youth
The abundance of violence on television and mass media influences significantly the audience. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that youngsters are particularly vulnerable to the negative influence of television violence and media violence. Specialists (Moy, 138) argue that television and media violence always have a negative impact on the audience because it minimizes barriers which normally restrain the use of violence in real life situations. What is meant here is the fact that the idealization of violence in movies and on television, formation of a positive view on violent characters, justification of violence contribute to the positive attitude of the audience to violence. To put it more precisely, people start perceiving violence as a norm and they believe that they can act violently because there is nothing really bad in it. Such a position is particularly typical for adolescents and children, because they cannot always distinguish the borderline between the fancied world of a movie and the real life. As a result, they believe that they can act violently simply because their favorite movie stars act in a violent way.
In addition, children and adolescents are particularly influenced by “happy violence”. In fact, they cannot adequately assess or foresee effects of violent acts. They are not fully responsible for their actions because their identity is just in the process of formation. On the other hand, they see regularly on television and in movies, as well as in other media, including video games, that violence is a norm. Moreover, on watching violence on television, in films, and other media, they start to believe that violence is not really bad and, what is more, they see that it can be funny since violence in movies and on television and media is a part of the audience’s entertainment. As a result, children and adolescents perceive violence as a sort of fun, rather than acts which can be dangerous to health and life of other people. At the same time, they are still constantly exposed to the impact of television violence as well as violence they see in other media, such as video games.
In such a way, the risk of a negative impact of violence in media on behavior of people, increases steadily. Moreover, the emergence of new media and the increasing impact of media on consciousness of large masses of people raises new threats in the future. Obviously, the emergence of media accompanied by excessive demonstration of violence can lead to the dramatic change in the public perception of violence and the attitude of the society to violence at large. It has been already mentioned before that media affect the formation of an individual’s identity. Therefore, in the future, the violence in media can totally change the traditional perception of violence as abnormal, negative, offensive act. Potentially, such a change can increase the number of crimes and offenses in the society and, what is more important, it can lead to a considerable cultural change in the result of which the modern society, which takes principles of humanism for granted, will give into the society where aggression and violence rule. In such a context, it is possible to speak about the probability of degradation of the human society back to the era when primal instincts dominated and the value of human life was absolutely insignificant.
On analyzing the impact of violent video games on users, especially children and adolescents, it is possible to distinguish two antagonistic views on effects of violent scenes on television: on the one hand, television violence is severely criticized because of its destructive influence on the psychology and development of the personality of children, while, on the other hand, it is considered to be absolutely safe, while aggression and violence in youth are explained by the influence of their social environment. In this regard, it should be said that both positions have their own strong arguments, but it is always to find counterargument.
At first glance, it is quite logical that violent acts on television influence the psychology of children and they can even shape their personality. In addition, children are extremely vulnerable to the impact of games they play because they can hardly distinguish such concepts as good and bad. Even adolescents may have problems with distinguishing positive models of behavior from negative ones. As a result, if they play violent video games, they also increase the negative impact of violence in media on children and adolescents. At this point, it is possible to refer to such video games as Grand Theft Auto, which is considered to be extremely dangerous to children as well as adults, because such video games are “murder simulators” (Hagelin, 2006). While playing such video games, users are constantly killing imaginary people. Such a situation is very dangerous because children can perceive the behavior of the characters of the game as the model for their own behavior in real life situations.
Moreover, violent video games, in which users are constantly committing violent acts, murders, thefts, and other crimes, contribute to the formation of a positive image of violent characters, which are normally treated as criminals. In other words, users believe that what they do in a video game is not as bad as people get used to think. As a result, children form a positive attitude toward offensive behavior and they believe violence to be acceptable tool, which they can use in real life situation to prove their righteousness, for instance.
The same effects are typical not only for video games, but also for television and other media. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that television violence can have even more significant impact on children and adolescents than video games, especially if they see violence in new issues. In fact, specialists may argue concerning the impact of violent video games on children and adolescents, but it is obvious that, while playing children and adolescents are still playing and, at least, partially they understand that such violence is a part of the illusionary, imaginary world. In stark contrast, when they see violence in news issues, they perfectly understand that this is real. This is why specialists (Schenker, 198) may argue that the negative impact of video games may be not as significant as critics of violent video games believe. For instance, Nadeau (2005) argues that violent video games do not provoke violent behavior in children as well as adults. Nadeau refers to statistics which proves that violent crimes have decreased since 1995, shortly after the introduction of violent video games, such as Grand Theft Auto 3. In such a way, it is even possible to presuppose that violent video games contribute to the decrease of violent crimes. The latter may be explained by the fact that children and other users playing violent video games direct their aggression, which they accumulate in the real life, on imaginary opponents in video games. As a result, they do not offend people in real life situations. In addition, violent video games distract users from real life problems and, whatever the content of the game is, it is still a game. Therefore, users are able to distinguish the reality from the imaginary world, though it is not always the case of children, who may have certain difficulties in this regard.
In such a way, it is obvious that views on violent video games are highly controversial and it is impossible to make a definite conclusion whether they have a negative impact on users or not. Nevertheless, it proves beyond a doubt that the distribution of violent video games should be regulated to minimize their impact on children (Dill, 37). It is obvious that children are vulnerable to the impact of violent video games than adults because the game is the natural way of learning for children. Therefore, they learn while playing.
However, the television violence definitely has a more obvious negative impact. At this point, it is possible to return to the violence in news issues. Specialists (Tolson, 151) argue that children are less protected psychologically in face of television violence because it is difficult for children and adolescents to think abstractly and, if adults can take television, including new issues violence, for granted, than children and adolescents take it seriously and this violence affects their psychology dramatically evoking very strong emotions. What is probably the most dangerous in news issues violence is its quantity and the way of representation. In fact, today, violence in news issues becomes a sort of routine. As a result, youth perceive the violence as an essential part of their life. Moreover, they understand that they also can and should act violently to prove their righteousness, protect themselves or of any other reason they can use to justify the violence. The problem is that news issues violence erase barriers between violence as an exceptional act and violence as a normal, routine part of the real life.
Prevention of the negative impact of television and media violence on youth
It proves beyond a doubt that if there is a risk of a negative impact of a negative impact of television violence on youth, than children should not exposed to the impact of television violence as well as violence in other media, including video games. At any rate, the parental guidance is needed in the selection of television programs and movies children watch and video games they play. For instance, the distribution and use of violent video games should be thoroughly regulated and controlled in order to avoid possible negative impacts of such games on children. Parents should be aware of such risks and they should be able to control what kind of games their children play, at least in the childhood, when the personality of children is not shaped. In such a way, parents can develop certain preferences in gaming and children will be more selective in the use of video games they play that can prevent the risk of the negative impact of violent video games on their personality. In fact, the recommendations can be applied to television and movies children and adolescents watch. Parents should know what their children watch and they should be aware of the negative impact of violence on their children. In such a situation, the formation of the specific, non-violent television culture is crucial for parents to form because they need to form tastes and preferences in their children, which could distract them from violent programs and movies and focus on non-violent ones.
However, the latter is not an easy thing to do because of the abundance of violent programs and movies. In such a situation, the introduction of censorship by the government seems to be practically essential. It should be pointed out that the government should have the right and opportunity to censor violence in media in order to minimize its presence in media and, therefore, its negative impact on people. In this regard, the government is the most reliable institution because media cannot effectively control themselves because violence traditionally contributes to higher profits of media because it attracts the large audience. As a result, it is impossible that some private structure controlled it, while public organizations do not have official power and authority to define the policy of media. Consequently, the government has to censor the violence in media as the most powerful and reliable institution.
At the same time, the arguments given above basically explain why the government and any other institution should censor violence in media. As for the question whether it should censor violence in media or not the answer may be also affirmative because it is absolutely unacceptable that violence in media is absolutely uncontrolled. The destructive impact of violence in media is obvious and potentially it may threaten to the national safety of the entire state. For instance, after September 11 attacks the disastrous effects of these attacks, which were examples of violence, were shown in abundance in media. Naturally, the profound attention of media and permanent repetition of these violent attacks contributed to the growing panic and depression of millions of people. No wonder even nowadays many people are under the impact of the stress they suffered from the impact of media depicting effects of the attacks in details.
However, in spite of the convincing arguments of supporters of the government censorship of media, there are a lot of opponents, who argue that the government should not control violence in media because, directly or indirectly, such control implies the censorship in media in the broader sense. Specialists argue that the government censorship is unconstitutional because it is actually “the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive” and it “happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others” (Chomsky, 26). What is meant here is the fact that the government through censorship of violence in media can influence the policy of media imposing its own moral and even political views. For instance, the government can forbid covering some events by media because of the excessive violence that may negatively influence the audience. However, these events may be vitally important for citizens and the censorship will lead to the lack of information and, therefore, inability of media and people to control the government. In brief, it is argued that censorship can potentially limit the freedom of press, namely specialists estimate that “the proposed cures [government censorship] are worse than the illness” since “they would extract an unacceptably high price in terms of eroding our fundamental guarantees of free expression” (Tolson, 151). Moreover, it is argued that the government censorship is “the wrong way to deal with violence in society” (Tolson, 152).
Obviously the debate over the prevention of the negative impact of violence in media leads to absolutely controversial views on the govern censorship as an effective tool of the regulation of media. In this respect, it is important to underline the fact that media need to be regulated. Otherwise, the lack of control over media can lead to the uncontrollable demonstration of violence in media because to show a piece of violent behavior is the easiest way for media to draw the large audience and make people interested in the particular program or media. In other words, media can use violence to accelerate their revenues along with the growth of their audience. It proves beyond a doubt that violence is a greater attraction for the mass audience than some scientific programs. Consequently, media need to be under the control in their representation of violence to the mass audience.
In such a situation, the government censorship can be an arguable point since it has both advantages and disadvantages, but it does not mean that the idea of the control over media should be totally rejected. In the future, it will be necessary to strengthen the control over media even more because of the increasing opportunities media can use to show violence uncontrollably. In this respect, it is possible to recommend uniting the efforts of the government and public organizations to minimize the negative impact of violence in media on the consciousness of people. For instance, public organizations are independent form the government and private companies and they protect of communities. This is why public organizations can work with state agencies to control the work of media and limit the amount of violence presented by media. The assistance of state agencies is needed to introduce sanctions against media that violate norms concerning violence in media. The latter implies that the work of public organizations and state agencies should be enforced by legislative changes which can limit the amount of violence in media. The introduction of restrictive measures can discourage media to use violence in their broadcasting.
At the same time, it is possible to use the full power of television for educational purposes, which could outweigh television violence as one of the mainstream trends. What is meant here is the fact that broadcasting companies, public organizations, educators, government, parents should encourage the development of educational programs and minimization of violence on television. Basically, this can be done through financial motivation of broadcasters and producers as well as the public approval of the introduction of educational programs. For instance, broadcasters which minimize the amount of violence in their broadcasting and introduce educational programs can get some tax privileges or tax credits to develop educational programs to replace violent ones. In such a way, the introduction of educational programs will compensate possible losses from the refusal from violent programs, films, etc. because such a change will ease the fiscal pressure on companies.
In addition, the attitude of public to companies should not be underestimated. Today, customer’s needs and interests are primary concerns of all companies operating in all industries, including television. Therefore, companies will have to refuse from violent programs and movies, if they confront a serious public opposition and protests, which can undermine the public image of any company and, therefore, decrease its popularity. The latter will naturally lead to the decrease of revenues and force companies to change their policies in regard to television violence.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that, today, violence in media has a negative impact on individuals and society, at large, while in the future this trend will grow stronger because new media appear and violence in media becomes practically uncontrollable. As a result, people start changing their views on violence, especially children, who do not have stable moral and ethical views. In the future, the violence in media can lead to the formation of a new culture, where aggressiveness and violence will be perceived as a norm. In such a situation, the introduction of the control over media in regard to violence is needed. However, the government censorship of violence in media may be argued, it may have many supporters and opponents, but there is only one undeniable fact that media should controlled because excessive violence in media may be as dangerous to people and to the country as the threat of the government control over media and limitation of the freedom of speech. In such a situation, one of the possible solutions of this dilemma is the introduction of special commission which could include representatives of public, non-profitable and non-governmental organizations, representatives of government and media, which could develop a clear strategy and standards which could limit the violence in media.
Finally, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that television, being the mainstream medium, is particularly dangerous in regard to the impact of violence on youth because violent programs and movies are widely spread and affect youth dramatically. Hence, it is important to introduce policies which can limit television and media violence. These policies may include government censorship, public control, development of alternative television products, instead of violent ones, and any other solutions which can stop television violence before it outgrows in the real violence.
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