Impact of Violent Media on Teenagers: Should the Modern Community Sound Alarm?

Mass media makes a dramatic effect on the modern culture and the daily routine. Teenagers face violence displayed in television, video games, mobile phones, and on the Internet. Experts, journalists, and policy-makers hold brisk debates discussing the impact of violent media on people and on teenagers, in particular. On the subject of the impact of violent media on teenagers, many specialists, such as Eugene Beresin, Miriam Baron, and Craig Anderson, argue that this phenomenon represents a dramatic risk to the health of children and teenagers. It contributes to aggressive conduct and desensitization to cruelty. Moreover, it causes nightmares, fears, and depressions. Nevertheless their opponents, like Rowell Huesmann and Laramie Taylor, claim that all the above-mentioned fears are exaggerated because of the insignificance and the short duration of made effect.


Media Violence and Aggression

Media Violence and Aggression: the Key Concepts of the Issue

Eugene Beresin states that it is difficult to evaluate the media effect on people because the terms ‘violence’ and ‘aggression’ have various explanations. To illustrate, a child can perceive brisk discussions as the aggression, while aggressive acts in a cartoon the child may view as a funny fairy-tale. Beresin notes that violence is the habitual phenomenon the humanity has been facing during all its history. Being in the real danger of meeting violence in unprecedented scales because of comparatively free access to firearms and explosives, the modern society is to solve this burning problem. 

Huesmann notes that media violence is difficult for measuring. Media violence can be referred to as “visual portrayals of acts of physical agression by one human human-like character against another”. In fact, violence can be defined as the deed (or danger) of harming or murdering some living being. George Gerber considers cartoon cruelty be dangerous. Guy Paquette and Jacques de Guise do not agree with this opinion, finding that comical and unrealistic presentation cannot be the threat to children. Moreover, researchers have different viewpoints on the type of connections between the different pieces of information. Beresin, Miriam Baron, and Craig Anderson argue that media violence leads to aggression. They state that media violence and cruelty can be associated. Nevertheless, researchers cannot confirm the close relationship between them.  

Aggressive behavior can be defined as “an act that is intended to injure or irritate another person”.

Huesmann distinguishes two types of aggression, such as physical and non-physical. The non-physical conduct suggests insults and spreading gossips. Aggressive conduct may include physical aggression, varying from pushing to fighting, attacks, and murders.

The degree of further influence of violence depends on the psychological type of viewers and the degree of attracting and sustaining attention. Plot characterisics of the violent scenes play the crucial role. To make more intense effect on viewers, several points are to be observed. First, the main character is expected to be attractive. Second, the inevitable reward is to be given for taking part in the violent actions. At least, the punishment for the cruelty should not be demonstrated. All these factors make films and video games charismatic. The next condition for developing aggressive conduct is numerous repeating violent scenes. Researchers state that even kind teenagersbecome aggressive under the influence of numerous observing violent media. Moreover, a high IQ does not help teenagers escape being affected  by violent media.

Some Aspects of the Media Violence and Mental Processes

The processes of influencing mass media can belong to priming, arousal, and immediate mimicking of particular conduct models. 

Priming can be referred to as “the process through which spreading activation in the brain’s neural network from the locus representing an external observed stimulus excites another brain node representing a cognition, emotion, or behavior”. The external spur may be related to an individual’s cognition. To illustrate, the display of a gun is connected with the violence. The external stimulus can be impartial, such as the certain ethnicity is related to some particular beliefs and conduct. The primed ideas make individuals’ conduct related to them in the greater degree. Violence can occur in cases of priming the ideas of cruelty.

The second component is arousal. In this case, the violent conduct can occur due to two causes, such as excitation transfer and general arousal. Under the circumstances of excitation transfer, spurs that arouse some feelings may cause more intense emotions due to  the mass media suggestion. To illustrate, a subsequent spur can be some occasions that induce anger. In this case, all the emotions would be more overwhelming. On the other way, the intense general arousal cause by the mass media information may reach its culmination when the psychological block of unsuitable responses becomes minimal. In this case, key received responses are reflected in finding the answer to the problem. The direct instrumental aggression can illustrate this model.

Being the imitation of certain models of conduct, mimicry can be regarded as an element of some more comrehensive long-term process. Experts note that individuals have the capacity to follow some models of conduct that they can view. In fact, children follow certain social models of conduct they can see. In cases of violent behavior, children behave in a violent way.  The neurological process is connected with the so-called ‘mirror neurons’ that are activated under the circumstances of observing and following some conduct patterns.

Long-term effects are caused by two reasons. The first reason is enduring observational learning of cognitions and conduct models. The second reason can be activation and desensitization of emotions. 

Regarding cases of observational learning, researchers claim that an individual’s social conduct depends on several factors. They are the interaction between the person’s feelings and occurring  events, viewing the reality, accepted ideas of the good and the evil, and the frames of conduct models the individuals have developed. Children and teenagers learn and follow social models of behavior suggested by different sources, such as their families, friends, surrounding people, and mass media. Later, individuals follow this conduct patterns in everyday situations. To illustrate, numerous observing violence scenes leads to active introduction of hostility to other individuals’ actions. Nevertheless, later children will realize the rules of successful social life and escape negative violent responses in their adult life.

Decentization is habituation of natural emotional responses. Negative emotional reactions to violent scenes become less intensive as a result of numerous repeating the cruel scenarios. To illustrate, experts highlight the correlation between heart rates, perspiration, and depessed emotions and exposure to blood and gore. Nevertheless, being under the influence of violent broadcasting and video violence, teenagers escape the previous discomfort. Adolescents transform into desensitized individuals and arrange cruel activities in the future.

Enactive learning follow the processes of observational learning and desensitization. Mass media and video games place teenagers into the conditions similar to everyday situations. This phenomenon happens due to active involving individuals into media interactions. For instance, video-games transform players into active participants of violent activities. Moreover, they substitute concepts, rewarding players for their violence. Moreover, the processes of demoralization increase  because of initiating multi-person games.

Mass Media and Teenagers

The free access of teenagers to watching violent media takes the leading place among the above-mentioned causes of tragedies. Researchers find a strong correlation between observing violent media and aggressive conduct in the risk groups of teenagers. In fact, in the middle of the twentieth century approximately 50% of Americans had an opportunity to watch television. Nowadays, about 99% of American families have TV-sets at home. Many teenagers have TV-sets and computers in their bedrooms. This fact often leads to uncontrolled watching TV programs. Experts state that teenagers watch television about 28 hours per week. In fact, the great majority of adolescent spend less time at school than they enjoy watching TV programs. Beresin claims that “the typical American child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18”. According to the statistics, television programs demonstrate about 812 violent activities per hour. Moreover, even television programs for children, such as cartoons, broadcast about 20 examples of cruel behavior per hour.

Children and teenagers follow the behavior they observe in films and they role-play this conduct, meeting their friends. Children under four cannot distinguish the real facts of everyday life and the pictures observed them in the films and cartoons. This can lead that they accept the examples of violent behavior as the norm. Beresin focuses on initiating violence as the popular way of solving problematic everyday situations. The main heroes of numerous popular films and video games are wild and violent. They have firearm and use it in conflicts. Moreover, they are rewarded for such unnatural behavior. Therefore, the above-mentioned type of conduct has become the conduct model for the modern adolescents. Then, children are exposed to any suggestion. They become insensible to other people’s sufferings.

Two Controversial Approaches to Mass Media Violence and its Effect on Teenagers

There are different approaches towards mass media violence and its effect on teenagers.

On the one hand, one can observe the lack of serious researches that prove the correlation between the viewed films or games and further atypical behavior of the viewer. Cruel and rude activities are the result of the set of causes. In fact, the major causes of the violence among teenagers are “poverty, family psychopathology, child abuse, exposure to domestic and community violence, substance abuse, and other psychic disorders”. 

Eugene Beresin draws the public attention to the increasing rate of school shooting and youth homicides among urban teenagers. Nevertheless, Huesmann and Taylor  argue that violent video games are not the key factor leading to high school shootings. They do not cause violent crimes among teenagers. On the other way, they can desensitize viewers to the occasions of violent scenes. They may develop aggression in some young children. Violent mass media can be only a potential risk factor. Moreover, the great majority of aggressive teenagers do not preserve the cruelty as the main feature of their character when they become adults. Therefore, antisocial conduct cannot be the result of the observation of violence.

Approximately 15% of music videos comprise elements of violence. According to the statistics, teenagers spend approximately three or four hours, watching television. Experts draw the public attention to the fact that about 60% of TV programs include elements of violence. Moreover, above 40% of the above-mentioned scenes belong to the category of heavy violence. The amount of time dedicated to playing video games is dramatically increasing. Approximately 83% of children and teenagers spend their free time playing the games. In 2004, adolescents spent about 49 minutes a day watching video. about 52% of children and teenages at the age between 8 and 18 played video games. Nevrtheless, th culmination of gaming activity occurs during the period between 8 and 18 years, when children spend 65 minutes per day, playing games. In the period between 15 and 18 years, teenagers dedicate only 33 minutes a day to video games. The great majority of video games belong to the violent category. Nevertheless, 94% of the above-mentioned games are recommended for teenagers by representatives of the video game industry. The researchers of independent experts display even higher rates of cruelty in the video games production.  

According to the results of numerous experiments, children demonstrate aggressive features immediately after observing violent films or playing video games of the kind. To illustrate, researchers studied the behaviour of 396 boys between 7 and 9 years old. After watching films with cruel scenes, boys physically attacked their peers. They faught, hit, elbowed, and assaulted other children. To confirm their hypothesis about the correlation between the violence in mass media and video games and teenagers cruelty, researchers introduced a walkie-talkie that was associated with the violent scenes. Boys, who observed violence, became extemely aggressive on viewing the above-mentioned cue. The rate of fights per day depend on the the time of watching the filmes of the above-mentioned category. In fact, adolescents are the most vulnerable to media spelling. According to surveys, teenagers are less sensitive to suffering of other people. They live in the virtual reality and often are afraid of the surrounding world. Children become more aggressive and treat other people in a cruel way.

Other sources of broadcasting violence are the Internet and video games. Parents do not proper attention to playing their children violent video games. ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto’ are cruel. Being unprecedented success, the video game ’Ved’mak’ comprises numerous elements of violence that damage vulnerable psyche. A role-modeling nature and extensive features lead to their enhancing influence on individuals’ vision of the world. The player is not a passive observer and associates himself or herself with the main hero who is extremely rude, commits different crimes, and is rewarded for his cruel conduct. Finally, free access to the websites containing the information about the making various explosive devices or supporting violent activities, aggravates the state of affairs.


Child and adolescent psychiatrists, pediatricians, and other physicians argue that the modern society should realize the danger of exposure to violence. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed the program of the steps to diminish broadcasting violence. Developing the above-mentioned document, Miriam Baron, Daniel Broughton, Susanne Buttross, and Suzanne Corrigan suggest several recommendations to decease the negative impacts of mass media on teenagers. First, health experts should hold discussions with parents about the influence of media on their children. They advice to control the time of watching TV programs that is not to exceed 2 hours a day.  Both family and the staff of educational establishments are to teach children to analyze the received information from films, videos, and advertisements. They are expected to develop critical thinking and understand the nature and real aims of certain mass media products. Then, parents are to install chips to block undesired sites and television programs. Finally, health promoters recommend discussing possible ways of warning about contained violent information with mass media providers of the networks, cable vendors, and federal agencies.

Health experts suggest several advice to parents to escape negative media influence on their children. They state that even a short discussion the detreimental effects of nedia violence and its consequences with children’s parents will be able to decrease up to 800 000 cases of cruel behaviour among teenagers. First, TV-sets, Internet connectios, and video games must not be in teenagers’ bedrooms. Second, watching films, TV-programs, and palying computer games, parents are expected to discuss their media preferences with their children. In cases of observing the scenes of violence, the negative events are to be condemned. Moreover, sexual content is to be more limited than the violent one. Third, screen time dedicated to watching TV prohgrams and video gams is to be shortened to one or two hours per day.  The V-chip is to be used. Video games comprising elements of cartoonish or abstract cruelty, and gory scenes are to be excluded. Fourth, parents should remember that children follow their own behaviour model. This fact suggests that all the discuusions will be ineffective if the adults do not follow their own recommendation in the everyday life. The next steps concern collaborations with media producers and experts to creat child-friendly media. First, weapon and violence are not to be supported as symbols of success and means of solving conflict siruations. Second, any occurrence of violent elements in a funny or sexual context are to be banned. Third, depicting intrpersonal violence implementing racist, disgusting and homophobic language are not to be allowed. Fourth, in cases  of violent scenes, the above-mentioned events are to be depicted as the tragic ones, focusing on the pain of all the participants of the actions. Fifth, parents are expected to have free access to music lyricsbefore purchasinf the records. Sixth, any human or other living being targets must be banned in the video games. The inevitable reward for virtual killing makes teenagers associate their joy and success with the opportunity to cause sufferrings. Seventh, the staff of gaming arcades should control the age limits of gamers.


Mass media plays the crucial role in the modern culture and the daily routine. Many teenagers are under effect of the modern technologies. On the subject of the impact of violent media on teenagers, many researchers, such as Eugene Beresin, Miriam Baron, and Craig Anderson, claim that this phenomenon represents a dramatic risk to the health of children and teenagers. It contributes to aggressive conduct and desensitization to cruelty. Moreover, it causes nightmares, fears, and depressions. Nevertheless their opponents, like Rowell Huesmann and Laramie Taylor, claim that all the above-mentioned fears are exaggerated because of the insignificance and the short duration of made effect.

In fact, Beresin, Baron, and Anderson highlight the fact that numerous violence scenes occur in mass media and warn against their negative impact on human psyche.  Therefore, the community should pay due attention to the role of this component in the adolescents as the future of this nation.

Media violence can be referred to as visual depicting acts of physical cruelty by individual or human-like character against another one. Violence can be defined as the act or danger of injuring or killing someone. Aggressive behavior can be eferred to as an act that has the goal to harm another person.

There are two types of aggression, such as physical and non-physical one. Aggression can belong to priming, arousal, and immediate mimicking of particular conduct models. 

Free access of teenagers to watching violent media takes the leading place among the above-mentioned causes of tragedies. Being in the real danger of meeting violence in unprecedented scales because of comparatively free access to firearms and explosives, the modern society is to solve this burning problem. 

There are different approaches towards mass media violence and its effect on teenagers. Rowell Huesmann and Laramie Taylor state that violent mass media is only one out of numerous potential causes of crimes and cruelty. They highlight that teenagers are under the influence of the violent scene only during a short-time period. Learning the norms of social conduct, teenagers behave in the proper way. On the other hand, Beresin, Baron, and Anderson cannot agree with this viewpoint. They state that adolescents follow the wrong model of social conduct, expecting inevitable rewards for cruel actions and having positive emotions because of it. The American Academy of Pediatrics developed the wide range of recommendations to decrease the detrimental impact of mass media on the young generation. 

Taking into account all the facts, the modern community should sound alarm and pay more attention to the plot of television programs and video games, hold discussions, and control the issue in the proper way. The prosperity of the future generations depends on the steps the modern society does to develop healthy strategies of using such powerful tool as mass media.

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