Definition of Media Violence

By Paul Cartmell
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Violence in the media is not a modern problem. According to research produced by Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, violence was an important part of entertainment in the Roman Empire. Contests between gladiators were used to define regions conquered by the Empire as Roman lands. Contests fought to the death by gladiators became so popular that the Roman senate passed laws limiting the number of contests to prevent wealthy citizens from bankrupting themselves gambling on contests. In the 21st century, mass media is a critical storytelling device that reaches the majority of the world. And, according to some research, violence depicted by media outlets has a negative effect on the viewer.

The Violence Debate

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The National Institute for Media and the Family categorizes media violence as acts of homicide, suicide or trauma shown in a graphic fashion by media outlets such as television, movies, video games and music videos. Some people blame media violence for violence in society and would like to censor the media. Those who believe there isn't a link between media violence and violence in society say censoring media violence is the first step to wider censorship and hides the true problems causing violence within society.

Childhood Viewing

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for young people is violence. According to the National Institute for Media and the Family, the average child in the United States views 200,000 acts of media violence by the time he's 18 years old.

Media Entertainment

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The Center For Media and Public Affairs has conducted long-term research into media violence and discovered that children’s programming in the United States shows an average of between 20 and 25 acts of violence every hour.

Network TV

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In a study conducted in 1998-99 by the Center For Media and Public Affairs, episodes of evening shows on network television averaged six scenes of violence per episode. The study claims that violence in mass media is committed by both the “good” and “bad guys” in almost equal measure and is usually presented as a necessary conclusion to the storyline. The study also found that only 10 percent of the shows containing violence explored the consequences of violent acts.

Professional Bodies

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A number of professional bodies, including medical groups such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, have condemned media violence as a contributor to violence in society.


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According to the Television Violence Monitoring Project, the depiction of 40 percent of violent acts on television did not show realistic consequences for the actions depicted. Also, 58 percent of violent acts on television showed that the acts didn't carry painful consequences and 47 percent showed no harm to the victim of the violent act.