Pros & Cons of Violence in the Media Affecting Teens

As long as violence has been a part of society, so have people tried to place blame on its facilitators. Many people believe that violence in the media affects our youth. Others disagree. In addition, there is the long-standing argument that the home is the most influential factor in teen behavior.

Negative Effects

An article in the "Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography" explored the effects violence in the media has on children and teens’ brains 2. After exposing adolescents with both aggressive and nonaggressive behavior to large amounts of media violence, researchers found a decrease in brain activity among all exposed to the violence. According to researchers, “Frontal lobe activation was reduced in aggressive subjects compared with control subjects.” This means that individuals exposed to large amounts of violence are using less brain function, causing a decrease in attention span and an increase in aggressive behavior. The article concludes: “Our findings suggest that media violence exposure may be associated with alterations in brain functioning whether or not trait aggression is present.”

No Effects

Aggressive behavior within society may drive the desire for violence on television, in video games and the news, according to Jonathan Freedman, former chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto 1. Dr. Freedman was interviewed on the topic of violence in the media. He stated: “The systematic research does not provide convincing evidence that exposure to violent media makes children or anyone else more aggressive.” He continued by discussing the decline in violence in the United States and Canada: “Starting in about 1990, we had lots of violent television and movies, more and more violent content in rap music and to that was added violent video games that became increasingly popular…. Rather than see an increase in violent crime, both the U.S. and Canada saw a dramatic decrease in violence.... The rate is now below what it was before television was available.”

Violence in the Home

Both sides in the debate agree that the most influential effect on teens is the example set in the home. Homes with more abuse set forth an example of violence that has lasting affects on the children of those homes. According to The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, "Children who witness family violence are affected in ways similar to children who are physically abused." Setting examples and boundaries is the most effective defense against violence.

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