National crises cause our society to examine itself. In the United States in 2019, there were 423 mass shootings, and already in 2020, public acts have occurred. The influence of violence is all around us: television, movies, video games. Children spend an average of six and a half hours a day on various media. For decades we have asked: Do these influences contribute to people being more violent?
Various scholars have explored the question of media’s effect on violence in society. In the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Albert Bandura conducted experiments in which many children exhibited violent behavior after observing adults demonstrating violence in person or on film. Dr. Rowell Huesmann has shown in his research over the years: many children who play/watch violent media can become desensitized to violence, believing that aggression is acceptable, that the world is a hostile place, and that problems should be solved by acting aggressively.
In 2004, Kevin Haninger, Harvard School of Public Health, published “Violence in Teen-Related Video Games.” His group analyzed 396 teen-rated video games (380 with violence). This included 5,689 human deaths occurring at an average rate of 61 human deaths per hour of game play.
We have a society of free speech. Therefore, many television shows containing extensive violence can be freely broadcast. Also, video games that engage players to practice violent acts have been on the market since 1973. Some of the titles are, and have been: “Death Race,” “Postal,” “Ethnic Cleansing,” “Super Columbine Massacre RPG,” “Bully” and “Rape Day.”
Much of the research conducted over the years has pointed to the influence of violence in media on our youth, but has posed more questions: What are we teaching our children? Are video games training children, and even adults, to be able to push buttons to kill with skill and ease? Does all of the violence we are exposed to desensitize us to seeing and participating in violent acts, considering violence as a normal way to solve problems?
We need to scrutinize what we are creating.
Nancy Nelle Cotten