Teen Violence and the Media


Violence Definition:

Violence is defined as the act of purposefully hurting someone or oneself. It is a learned behavior and Violence creates a cycle where we all end up affected in one way or the other. Violence represents acts in which a person gets hurt. It is an aggression to the dignity, integrity and well being of a person. A person could get hurt physically, psychologically, sexually or socially. It has even become the primary cause of death for American teens. Nearly 80% of all teenage deaths are the result of violence according to the article: [The Editors. (1992, Summer). Increasing adolescent violence. On the Horizon. 1(a), pp. 6-7.].


Media Definition

“ Media violence is one of the key ingredients in the complex mix of factors that produce anti-social conduct.” (Amitai Etzioni, “Lock Up your TV Set.”  October 18, 1993)

The media represents all the means of communication, as newspapers, radio, films and television that provides the public with news, entertainment usually along with advertising. Television is one of the most influential of all due to its availability. When watching television the vision and audition senses are involved and the imagination of the individual becomes limited. The person becomes a recipient of all messages emitted by the television. Television and violence have become practically synonymous. Unnecessary violence on almost every TV production is basically part of the American culture currently. The new heroes of cartoons, TV series and movies simply glamorize violence. Violence is the main story not an element necessary to tell the story. In top of this there is the influence of many video games that encourages kids to find the most successful way to kill. Mixed in with violent comic books this has become a terrible combination of violent role models for children with poor nurturing and direction from parents.

There have been studies that support the relation between Violence in the media and violent behavior from the viewers. Third and fourth grade students at two elementary schools were asked to report the amount of time spent watching TV and videos and playing video games. Students were challenged to abstain from watching television and video games for ten days, then asked to restrict TV-watching and video game playing to seven hours a week.

Children were then asked to rate their classmates aggression at the beginning of the study (September 1996) and at the end of the study  (April 1997). Robinson says there were  about 2.5 per cent fewer reports of aggression in the test group than in the control group. The study is published in the January 2001 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Source: CNN.

There are events that speak for themselves. Friday the 13th, a slasher movie, quickly found a live imitator. A movie called Colors led to riots in several cities, a group of teenagers committed acts similar to the ones portrayed at Mississippi Burning, they beat a white 14 year old into unconsciousness.

There is mounting evidence that violence in the media is one of the factors that brings violence in the body of society.

  statistics become particularly alarming when taking in consideration that about half of children at the age    of  six already own a TV set in their own rooms.

These data was found in the book titled (“Violence in the media”. Carol Wekesser. pp122. 1995).

In the book (Social Psychology. Donelson R. Forsyth. pp 510. 1995) it shows similar events documented. For instance:

“One investigator examined the number of suicides in the United States1947 and 1968. When suicides rates in the months before and after each 35 highly publicized suicides were contrasted, starling increases were revealed. On the average each suicide story was followed by about 58 copycats suicides (Phillips, 1974,1979,1980,1982, 1983)”. Evidently the extensive coverage of the media may promote violence. As it is the case of the school shootings in the United States. It has become common to hear such headlines of students shooting in a rampage, killing teachers and classmates. The extensive coverage may be causing a chain reaction by promoting it. 


In a book titled Media Wizards there is a definition of the word propaganda devices as “persuasive ways of spreading ideas and influencing behavior, most often by manipulating human desires and fears”. The media is filled with propaganda and techniques of this nature that play around with our thinking.

Another tactic that the media utilizes is the power of negativity. (Byron reeves & Clifford Nass. The Media Equation. Pp.121. 1996). The media’s theory is that negativity not only causes people to remember what is happening at the moment it is experienced. But It also changes the way information is process after the negative experience is over. Experiences that come immediately after a negative event are remembered better that those that occur after a positive event. In Psychology this is called proactive enhancement. Negative information wakes up the processing system, focusing attention on whatever follows. Then there is retroactive interference, which states that while negativity enhances the processing of experiences that come after it, negative experiences impede memory for events that comes before That is then why

we constantly observe how advertisement is also charged with violence, and how the media studies ways to manipulate our minds.

Although there seems to be enough data, there is not enough to actually assure that the violence in the media could affect the behavior of an individual. There are experts that suggest that there are other explanations. For example; in the book (Our Social World. Donelson R. Forsyth.1995). There is a passage that sees the relationship between watching violent programming and one’s hostility as not a valid support in the argument that watching violent programming increases aggression. “People who are highly aggressive may seek out violent television programs”. Another common argument is that violence in the media only reflects the reality of the society.

Actually, the desensitization that occurs while watching violence on TV is a distortion of reality. After being exposed of acts of violence constantly an individual becomes used to seeing it and it does not create much arousal. It looses the true meaning and it can normalize behaviors that are completely deviant.


       Even when it seems that there is clear evidence that a link exists between violence and aggressive behavior, it is not a definitive fact. However it is important to watch this matter closely without ignoring that although the media violence is not the only cause of violent behavior it has a great influence on it. When an individual is exposed to all the other factors and in top of it watches TV absorbing all the negative messages is a terrible combination. The society that we live in is stressful enough and the media is not doing much to help reduce that stress. We all need to remain open minded in trying to find solutions that will help the younger generation cope with this matter.






  References :



Baron, R.A.(1996) Essentials of Psychology. Second Edition . Massachusetts. Allyn & Baron.

Bender, D. & Leone B. (1996) Violence. Opposing Views. First Edition. California. Green Haven Press, Inc

      Bender, D & Leone. B. (1995) Violence in the Media. First Edition. Green Haven Press, Inc.

De Moss, R. G.(1992). Lear To Discern. First Edition. Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.new_page_1.htm

Feagin, J. R. & Booher. C. F. Social Problems Fifth edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Forsyth, D. R. (1995) First Edition. California: Brooks/Cole.

Gourley, C. (1999) Media Wizards. First Edition. Connecticut: Twenty First Century Books.

Reeves, B. & Nass, C. (1996). The Media equation. First Edition. Cambridge University Press.

Stephens, M. 1998. The Rise of the Image, The fall of the World. New York: Oxford University Press.