The youth media industry has changed considerably since it was first introduced to youth over seven decades ago. From comic books to dolly magazines and silent films to online game play. There is no doubt that the effects of media upon the behaviours and identities of youth and youth culture have been a concern of parents for a long time. Many long and short term effects shown through different forms of testing forms the essence of the argument that children are affected by media violence. With aggression levels different from place to place, from those who watch the same amount of violence and that laboratory testing is corrupt forms the argument that children are not affected by media violence. This essay will critically consider both sides of the argument concerning the effects of media violence upon youth behaviour and identity youth culture tying in critical thinkers and scientific evidence to form a conclusion on this long running debate on media violence.
Over fifty years ago before the introduction of television, the dispute over whether media violence exposure made the viewer more violent was being debated. The same distress showed for gangster rap and online game play and has been expressed throughout the last eight decades over the commencement of movies, radio, comic books and music genres such as rock 'n' roll. Although concerns have always been around about the effects of media violence it wasn't until the 1950's concerns escalated as according to (Beaty, 2005) comic books symbolised the increase in juvenile delinquency as the nature of comics focused more and more on crime and violence. This caused moral panic among parents with the belief in the "innocence" of children and of the role of parents in "moulding" the values of their children as well as "shielding" them from any harmful messages the media was portraying (Spigel, 1992). The moral panic that was first distinguished back in 1950 has carried on today with focuses changing as technology changes. Parents in modern societies are still expected to mould the values of their children and shield them from any harmful content with studies showing both long and short term effects of media violence proving to reiterate the reason for societal panic.
Rowell Huesmann argues that fifty years of evidence shows that exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively through short term effects and impinges on adulthood behaviour through long term effects (Huesmann, 2007). Short term effects include priming processes, excitation processes, and the immediate imitation of specific behaviours according to Bushman and Huesmann (2000). Priming is the process which infers that the memory is affected in which exposure to a stimulus (media violence) influences response through excitement to a subsequent stimulus (aggressive cognitions or behaviours). Immediate imitation of specific behaviours is the belief that if a child is put in a room and forced to watch violent actions then placed back into society they will replicate the acts they have just witnessed. Experiments that have been performed to show both the long and short term effects have been proven to consistently show that exposing children to violent behaviour in films and on TV increases the likelihood that they will behave aggressively immediately afterward (Green and Thomas, 1986); ( Paik and Comstock, 1994). Critiques such as Jonathan Freedman argue that scientific evidence simply does not show that watching violence either produces violence in people, or desensitizes them to it (Freedman, 2002). The core of his argument comes from the belief that if media violence does have an effect on the viewer people who view the same TV shows should not differ in aggression. Studies done in comparisons of Detroit and Michigan who essentially see the same TV shows prove that crime rates are not similar between the two states as murder and crime rates are higher in Detroit than in Michigan (Gentile, 2003).
Long term consequences include observational learning and desensitization of emotional processes (Huesmann, 2007). Observational learning is a type of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating violent behavior executed by the media. Desensitization is negative emotions experienced automatically by viewers in response to a particular violence. When content is first viewed the viewer will get a rush of blood which is known as ecstasy, after compulsive exposures you lose the excitement of the first time you have been exposed to the violence. To get the arousal back you must watch a higher level of violence. Once this cannot be achieved it is alleged that the viewer will enact their own violence to receive the same arousal received when they first viewed the violence. This has been proven to have a major effect on adulthood with many laboratory experiments conducted by professors such as Leonard Eron and Huesmann, Monroe Lefkowitz and Jeffrey Johnson. They showed that the children who were exposed to violence as eight year olds were more likely to have criminal convictions than children who were not exposed to media violence when surveyed as adults. Critiques such as Richard Rhodes and Guy Cumberbatch argue that the experiments done on long term effects are "poorly conceived, scientifically inadequate, biased and sloppy if not actually fraudulent research" (Rhodes, 1999). Rhodes specifically attacks the evidence collected in the experiments of Eron and Huesmann arguing that Eron and Huesmann's evidence are based on inconsequential amount of data. Rhodes claims that Eron had information about the amount of TV viewed in 1960 for only 3 of the 24 men who committed violent crimes as adult's years later (Freedman 2003). Cumberbatch claims Johnson's group of 88 participants who watched less than one hour of television a day is "so small, it's aberrant (Cumberbatch, 1989) taking into account there were 707 people who took part in the experiment with only 77 people who watched less than one hour of television.
As shown in the above text effects of media violence exposure is over exaggerated and twisted to support either side of the argument. Take the long term effects; for an example testing done requires repeated and extensive exposure to violence which does not show a relationship with real world exposure as no one person would have media as their sole source of knowledge. Gentile (2003) does argue that media violence is not the only cause for aggression but the question being asked is whether media does affect the viewer. Although research shows that by the time the average American child is 14 years old, she or he would have seen more than 8,000 murders and more than 100,000 other acts of violence on television (Huston, 1992) Looking at these statistics you would think America would be the most violent place in the world; that is if media violence did have an effect on the viewer. That is not the case as the rate of violent deaths in low to middle income countries is more than twice the rate of high income countries (Connolly, 2004). If media does have an effect on the viewer why does the most violent place in the world have little or no exposure to the media with only 8.8% of the population in Africa who attend school having access to the internet in their own homes (www.statssa.gov.za, 2004).
Crichton-Hill suggests that aggressive behaviour is learned in childhood throughÂ observing and copying family members using violence. Taking this into account the reason for violent acts are not from the media but rather the child's upbringing. This is reiterated in the fact that high income countries that have access to more violence within all forms of the media have less than two times the amount of violence than middle and low income countries. Instead of people focusing on the effects on media violence the focus should be on making worldwide awareness on child abuse. In New Zealand there were more than 49,000 reports of family violence to Child Youth and Family and 3456 cases of abuse in 2008 against children under 2 and Seventy-five babies admitted to hospital as a result of abuse totally to one every five days (NZ Herald report, 4-12-09, A6). These large numbers of child abuse which don't include cases that have not been reported are the heart of the reason for child and youth aggression. Instead of putting the blame on the youth critics need to start looking at parents and their children through violence acts of discipline rather violent acts of media. the way they are bringing up