How Media Causes Violence in Youth, Research Paper Example
Words: 2232Research Paper
There has been an increase in juvenile crime and much of this has been declared a social problem relative to poor areas of the larger Cities like Los Angeles and Chicago. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is the largest state run prison institution in the USA. It has 37 correctional institutes, 18 community correction facilities and 8 juvenile facilities housing more than 165,000 adults and over 3,200 juveniles. Some recent interesting statistics in the USA indicate that about 62% victims of non-fatal violence occur at the hands of juvenile offenders. 95 % of sexual assaults were committed by youths under the age of 18. Some 74% of reported juvenile offences said the perpetrator was a male. 61% of simple assaults were carried out by juveniles. One area singled out as having the most continued troublesome (Montaldo)
A question has been raised as to just how complicit is the media in the influence and contribution to juvenile crime in the USA? Media may derive from a number of different sources such as violent video games, portrayal of graphic violence on the Tele Vision, DVD’s and other media, reported violence by the internet to hand held devices etc.
Juvenile Crime in the USA
In more recent years researchers have been studying the construct of psychopathic behaviour in juveniles and young adults. This research is likely to have a significant input into how the legal jurisdiction will impact the treatment of juvenile crime. It has been proven that there are a number of juveniles with serious persistent criminal records that display psychopathic tendencies. Questions have been raised as to whether the root cause is that of criminal behaviour or sociological considerations i.e. driven from poverty, drug dependencies and poor social living environments.
Since the 19990’s the public outcry about juvenile crime has seen more punitive measures taken against offenders and they are now facing stiffer penalties from Juvenile Courts. At the extreme level Texas still imposers the death penalty for juvenile homicide convictions. Juvenile Crime and gang convictions are on the increase in the USA. Police arrests and subsequent convictions show gang members being related to location, grouping, type of crime committed, conviction type, date convicted, number of previous offences etc. These provide more logical grouping of data. It must be recognised that the largest percentile groups, that of street gangs and juvenile gangs, are not a police problem but a social problem.
Most of juveniles arrested are repeat offenders and as such have a record of violence and petty crime. The system does not provide adequate social welfare for these offenders and as such crimes often escalate into cases of homicide and serious assault. As such police have the right of detention until the person arrested cab be formally charged and duly processed through the court systems.
Much of the current research effort in psychopathic behaviour is aimed towards forecasting why this type of behaviour pattern occurs. i.e. the utility of measures. There have been some interesting debates taking place on precisely what constitutes psychopathic behaviour. One argument states ‘an integral part of psychopathy is an emergence of an early and persistent patter of problematic behaviour’ whereas another viewpoint stated that criminal behaviour is mainly rooted in anti-social behaviour i.e. ‘an epiphenomenon that is neither diagnostic of psychopathy nor specific to personality deviation’. (Skeen)
Increasing attention is being made towards juvenile crime statistics. Juveniles mixing in gangs may result to victimization as more criminal related activities like, mugging, theft, robbery, intimidation etc. This is often teenagers coming from backgrounds of poverty and becoming resentful of others that have money and a lifestyle that they can never attain. This equally covers vandalism and damage of property as a result of rage and jealousy. There are a number of behavioural conditions associated with juvenile delinquency i.e. anger, rage, hatred, jealousy and ignorance ( lack of education). This often leads to repeat offences and eventually more serious crimes including homicide. Certain states like Texas treat juvenile crime in the same context in adults and the death penalty still exists for juvenile homicide cases (Snyder)
Media and Youth Violence
There has been a wide number of research projects conducted over the concept of media influence and youth violence. Some academics like Professor R.L. Howell at the University of Michigan believe that such prolonged exposure to media violence has a profound impact on children’s aggressive behaviour and this is found to carry through into adulthood. Others like J. Freedman at the University of Toronto dispute this claim and state that there is no hard evidence to support that exposure to media violence alters the behavioural characteristics of people. Another study carried out by Andrea Martinez at the University of Ottawa concluded that media violence is hard to measure and define. Other researchers have been more specific pointing to the psychological effects of mind disturbance produced by scenes of horrific violence. (Media Awareness network).
Violence and Video Games
In 2005 the American Psychological Association called for a reduction in the amount of violence that is shown in Video Games. From their perspective the evidence was clear – they based this upon 20 years of research with psychologists at the St Leo University in Tampa Florida. The research carried out indicated that those children who were exposed to graphic violence scenes had a short term increase in aggressive behaviour patterns. Another study conducted by a student from Illinois indicated that there was no long term damage. That conclusion might prove more socially acceptable but a recent case illustrated the potential problem . This being the case of Devin Moore where a Grand Jury reached a guilty verdict after three people were killed as an influence of the film Grand Theft Auto
Pro Video Games
Availability of violent games: Federal crime statistics illustrate that Juvenile violent crime has significantly decreased in the USA. Some 90% of boys and 40% of girls are involved in playing video games. The majority of these are not involved in criminal behaviour. The Surgeon General stated that most anti-social and criminal tendencies were a result of mental instability, poor environments and lack of good parental upbringing. The moral panic that has exploded concerning the use of violent video games is more of a paranoia that detracts from the real social and psychological issues society faces.
Scientific evidence: Initial scientific claims are based upon narrow research studies and are not representative of the wider holistic view. Many of the studies carried out are inconclusive and require further research before any definitive conclusions can be drawn. Much of this focuses upon causal behaviour patterns i.e. aggressive people like aggressive video games. At the moment no research pinpoints that an aggressive video game leads to violent crime or murder. The verdict in the Devin Moore case being an isolated incident?
Children are the main market: It has been estimated that 66% of the market is under the age of 18. As such the focus should be on the link between that of aggressive video games and violent juvenile crime. Current statistics dispute this and indicate that juvenile crime is at a 30 year low. Market research has indicated that 83% of game purchases are influenced by the parents. As such exposure to this material is in the control of the parents. Parents need to restrict children to the degree of exposure to these sorts of games and balance this between that of exercise, school work and healthy living activities.
Almost no girls play computer games: The video game market is predominately in the male sector. The trend is however for more girls taking an interest in these games. Psychologists state that women associate with the more powerful independent “warrior like” figures as a means of developing confidence and building up their own self-esteem.
The military comparison: As video games are used in simulation exercises to train the military in the art of killing it has been assumed they have the same impact on Children. This is the argument put forwards by the Military psychologist David Grossman and that children are gaining the same exposure that will condition them to behave in an anti-social and aggressive way in society. The verdict is still out here but Grossmans model only works under certain predefined conditions.
Social Isolation theory: The concept that video games contribute to the social isolation of children and make them more introvert. The argument against this is that most gamers play with friends and this statistically is high as 60%. A lot of games are designed for multiple players promoting teamwork and social interaction. One social psychologist stated that two gamers may be fighting to the death on screen but off screen they grow closer as friends.
Desensitizing Theory: The concept of exposure to graphic violence on screen forms the basis of desensitizing the true meaning and concept of this. In other words the divorce from reality; in the virtual world you do not experience pain or suffering or severe wounds or the possibility of real death. Media researchers state that the violence in games also reduces the amount of empathy for real world violence incidents. Equally those with prolonged exposure to violent gam Anti Video Games
The Literacy Argument: Exposure to prolonged graphic violence detracts from a health life balance i.e. the concept of a healthy mind in a healthy body. Children are in the formative years for adulthood and should be devoting more time to learning (school) activities, reading / writing, exercise and more positive confidence building activities in the real world. The danger is not achieving educational goals and as such leaning towards ignorance or in more acute cases retardation or mental illness.
Obsession: The games can become addictive and lead towards unhealthy obsessions. Acts of violence carried out in the virtual world may lead to child experiments in the real world and expose the child to untold horrors. This becomes more complex when this is linked to juvenile gangs in the larger urban city environment.
Evidence exists – There have been numerous cases or bodies of evidence supporting the linkages between violent games and crime. The two students who committed the Columbine High School massacre were said to be avid players of the violent game “Doom”. In addition the games have become much more violent and realistic. The research and evidence may not be conclusive but there are sufficient cases and linkages to cause real alarm and concern for the future well-being of children.
In addition, research has indicated that exposure to graphic violence is more harmful in the virtual reality world of video games than exposure to other media like TV and DVD’s.
New Dimensions – Another dangerous trend is that of games that expose children to subjects like torture. This is the type of game that can cause psychological damage in young people and equally introduce them to graphic concepts that are not really fit for young minds. There should become an ethical dimension in terms of the games manufacturers but there seems to be no control in terms of the content that they push out into the market place.
The Legal issues: The controversy of violent graphic games has now reached the Supreme Court in America. The Supreme Court justice was split as to whether such restrictions would be deemed constitutional. One of the main issues seems to be the lack of legal precedence here. The issue in question being whether there should be an outright ban in California, as applicable to manufacturers of the games that depict graphic violence.
The 2005 California law already prohibits the sale of certain games where –a reasonable person would find that the violent content appeals to deviant or morbid interests of minors and as such causes the game as a whole to lack serious artistry, literary, political or scientific values for minors.(BBC News)The penalty for breach of this law being $1000 fine to the retailer concerned.
It appears that there is an urgent need for more research in this subject area and these needs to be co-ordinated across a number of different scientific research areas i.e. Medicine, Sociology, Psychology and Criminology. There seem to be sufficient linkages in order to generate a real cause of concern. There are already significant social problems with drugs and juvenile crime without adding a future generation of ignorant or mentally challenged people into the equation.
Craig Anderson the Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University has carried out a major research study looking at 130 research reports from over 130,000 subjects on a world-wide basis. Resulting from this analysis he was able to make an early observation – The prolonged exposure to violent video games with scenes of graphic violence is what induces aggressive behaviour in children (J. Moore) Evidence suggested that potential damage was more likely in children than that of exposure by adults. – There seems to be no distinction between Children of Eastern and Western countries in so far as being impacted by video games of extreme violence (Moore).
BBC News. Supreme Court considers games rule case. 2 11 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11671196. 3 11 2011.
H.N. Snyder, M. Sickmund. “Juvenile Offendors and victims.” National Report (2006): 253. Journal. 2010 Moore, E. Armstrong. Violent Games raise agression. 2 3 2010. http://news.cnet.com/8301-27083_3-10462519-247.html. 3 11 2011.
J.C., Skeen. “Is criminal behaviour a central component of psychopathy, conceptual directions in resolving the debate.” Juvenile Offendors and Victims (2010): 433-441. Journal.
Media Awareness network. Research on the Effects of Media Violence. 2011. http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/violence/effects_media_violence.cfm?RenderForPrint=1. 3 11 2011.
Montaldo, C. Most juvenile crime victims are other juveniles. 17 11 2009. http://crime.about.com/od/juvenile/a/juvenile_vics.htm. 3 11 2011.
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