What Types of Media Violence Are Kids Exposed To?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the media as agencies of mass communication 1. With such a broad definition, anything that disseminates information or ideas to large numbers of people can be considered media. Children are more susceptible to the harmful effects of exposure to violence because of the developmental stage of their brains. According to the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children may try to imitate violent behavior, and even think that such behavior is normal without fully realizing the consequences of violence.


According to the University of Michigan Health System, children between the ages of 2 and 11 watch more than 25 hours of television every week 2. That adds up to witnessing 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on television by the time the average child reaches the age of 18. Even children's programming and cartoons contain acts of violence to varying degrees.

Video Games

Dr. Sears, a medical doctor and author of over 30 books on pediatric health, says that over 80 percent of the most popular video games sold in the United States in 2006 contained acts of violence 3. Adding the number of murders shown on computer and video games to those witnessed on television means that the average American teenager witnesses 40,000 murders by his 18th birthday.


Music contains numerous references to violence, gangs, and sexually predatory acts against women. In a study conducted by Craig Anderson at the University of Iowa, college students' feelings of hostility and anger increased considerably after listening to violent songs, as opposed to non-violent songs by the same band.


In research done by the University of Michigan Health System, 100 percent of animated movies produced in the United States between 1937 and 1999 had at least one act of violence, and the amount and intensity of violence in movies has only increased 2. In 2008, researchers at Dartmouth released a study showing that 48 percent of American children between the ages of 10 and 14 had seen a movie rated R because of violence. The popularity of horror movies among children also increases the amount of violence they witness.


Not all exposure to violence comes from make-believe. Children also see and read about war, terrorist acts, murders and violence in the newspaper. National Public Radio ran a piece in February 2010 discussing how graphic newspapers should be allowed to publish photographs showing the devastation of war, natural disasters and acts of terrorism, not only because of the impact on potential viewers, but also out of respect for the victims.