Communication Sample Paper on Media and Violence

Media and Violence

The issue of violence is currently a hot button issue as persons from all walks of life give their opinions on the issue, especially considering that “violent crime has increased dramatically in the United States since the 1950s” (Cantor, 361). The rise in frequency of violent crime is a complex issue that has been caused by a confluence of myriad factors that have significantly changed the complexion of modern life. There has been tremendous change in the social structure of modern societies, compared to societies in the 19th and early 20th century, which may contribute to the increasing violence. Although the media is awash with cases of violence, the true extent of violence in the modern society cannot be accurately gauged because majority of the “violent acts happen in private, with no media coverage” (Ahamd et al., 23). Despite the fact that the causality of violence cannot be pinned on one aspect, mass media plays an important role in the rise of violence.

The world is currently in an information age, where information can be disseminated quickly throughout the globe though information technology, which has become pervasive. Technological breakthroughs have made it possible for the emergence of mass media that has now saturated every aspect of modern life (Huesmann and Taylor, 2). The radio was the first tool to be used in mass media, enabling the spread of information quickly over vast distances. In addition to the radio, the modern home is equipped with television sets, videos, video games, personal computers and internet, either through wired or wireless connections. Mass media has become a daily stable of modern life, and an overwhelming majority of people are exposed to the mass media in one form or another. Considering the pervasiveness of media in the life of people, it is important to determine whether it has any effect on the lives of people exposed to it.

Research shows that the media has a significant influence and moulds the values, outlooks and attitudes that people develop over time (Puddephatt, 17). If we are to accept the contention that the media has an effect on the sociological and psychological development of individuals, then it follows that the media effect can either be positive or negative. Mass media has played an important role in fostering harmony and community integration by informing people about the wider world and of cultures that are beyond the immediate horizon. This has helped to make individuals open-minded and more willing to accept other cultures. The media has also played a moderating role in society by condemning behavior that is considered anti-social, hence dissuading people from exhibiting similar behavior, while exhorting the virtues of good behavior. In this way, the media has acted as a social control tool, helping to regulate the behavior of society within the narrow parameters that are deemed to be acceptable. However, despite the positive effect that mass media has on the behavior of individuals, it also has led to the rise in antisocial behavior, especially an increase in violence.

The mid and late 20th century saw an increase in gratuitous violence in television, with television programming having increased violent scenes. This trend was also replicated in movie theaters and videos, with the violent resolution of conflict being the norm. The Vietnam War may have led to an increase in violence in the movies and videos because depictions of the conflict often were interspersed with liberal servings of violence. The rise in violence in the movies and videos has continued unabated and currently, a majority of the videos have some level of violence. There have been attempts to protect the young from exposure to violence by rating of videos and television programs. The rating is meant to help parents or guardians to protect their children from age inappropriate content.  In addition, television programming is such that adult programs are aired late in the night, when it is presumed that young children have slept. However, the effectiveness of rating and program scheduling in protecting the young from inappropriate programs and violence is open to debate considering that most parents have weak oversight over their children.

The pervasiveness of violence in television and videos is a main concern for the well-being of children. Young children are at a developmental age, where they are still forming their values, attitudes and outlooks. They are highly impressionable and tend to mimic the actions that they observe in their environment. Young children have not developed a clear delineation between reality and fantasy and can have problems in determining, which of the actions they see in television or videos are acceptable in real life, and the ones that are unacceptable. In some of the cases of violence reported from schools, it appears that the perpetrators of the violence seem to see their actions as an extension of the virtual violence that they observe. The saturation of violence in the audiovisual medium, therefore, predisposes youth to the possibility of picking up violent tendencies, which they may later enact in life. Feelings of anger, rage and disgust are part of the emotional repertoire of individuals as they grow up, and children are yet to muster the control of these negative emotions. When they watch television images or videos that promote the violent expression of negative emotions or violet resolution of conflicts, they are likely to think that violence is the norm in society (Ahmad, 96).

Other than violence on television and videos, video games are fast becoming the medium through which young people are exposed to extreme levels of violence. Video games have evolved from the monochromatic games played in the 1970’s to having colorful and life-like graphics. Although video games have been in existence from the 1940s, the diffusion of video games into the general public remained largely limited because the cost of the hardware needed to run video games was prohibitively high. Consequently, most video games remained trapped in advanced technology laboratories where pioneers in the gaming industry created them. However, the 1970’s saw a dramatic fall in the prices of the hardware needed to run video games, making the idea of commercially distributed video games an economically viable venture. The introduction of home consoles made it possible for video games to be widely distributed and into homes and young people now have very easy access to video games. Initially, video games were simple, had linear story lines and when violence was involved, it had to do with the demolition of inanimate objects, animals or aliens.  The graphics in the games were also mediocre and the games loaded slowly making them distinctly virtual.

Rapid changes in technology have made it possible for small personal computers and gaming consoles to pack immense computing power. The graphics in the games have improved immeasurably and currently, most of the games have life-like graphics, blurring the line between the virtual world and reality (Ferguson and Kilburn, 760). Violence in video games has also risen exponentially to dangerously high levels, leading to the introduction of a rating system, akin to the movie, or video rating system. The storylines have also changes considerably over the intervening period. Initially, video game violence tended to follow a hero to villain narrative, making the violence to be ‘justified’. However, modern games have gratuitous violence and some encourage the shooting and killing of anybody, including law enforcement agents and innocent bystanders. The graphics have also become so good that the gory images of ‘killed’ characters have a life-like appearance. In addition, the sound tracks for the video games provide a realistic reproduction of the sounds that one could possibly hear in a real-life incident.

The high levels of violence and the indiscriminate targeting of characters in the video games have desensitized some ardent game players to the extent that the killing of an innocent person is not an issue. Some video games give bonus points for head hits, encouraging players to aim for the heads of characters as a means of accumulating points rapidly. There is a pattern in most of the school shootings, where the shooter picks a gun and then shoots randomly and indiscriminately at people, who may be innocent strangers, just like in the video games. Violent video games have made overt aggression appear the norm as characters are encouraged to aggressively pursue opponents in the games, with a view to surviving to the end of the game. Most video games work on the general principle of either kill or be killed; normalizing the notion that conflict can only be resolved aggressively and violently. Exposure to violence is positively correlated with increased exhibition of aggressive behavior in real life, and the linkage between violent video games and real-life physical aggression should not be underestimated (Gentile and Bushman, 8).

The hip hop culture that is popular among the youth is helping to expose youth to considerable levels of violence. This is especially the case for youth who habitually listen to rap music, which is filled with expletive ridden lyrics and violent language. Rap music glorifies violence and promotes gangster culture, where it is seen as normal to violently eliminate ‘obstacles’. Rap music also promotes gender-based violence with its derogatory depiction of females, who are presented as nothing more than sexual objects, to be had at the pleasure of men. The degeneration of women is sometimes reflected in real-life attitudes towards women, with some young people being disrespectful towards women, whom they see as lesser beings. Music is powerful tool for influencing young people’s attitudes at a subliminal level, ingraining unwholesome attitudes and values in the minds of the youth imperceptibly. With the rising popularity of rap music, the negative influence of rap music on the morality, ethics and behavior of the youth needs serious examination to determine the best intervention measures to be used to protect the youth from its corrupting influence.

The internet has been one of the technological breakthroughs of recent times that have had a profound effect in the way that people conduct their daily business. The positive impact of the spread in the use of internet cannot be gainsaid, and it can even be seen as one of the drivers of globalization. The cheap availability of broadband and access at relatively fast speeds to the internet using hand held devices has made it possible for people to communicate instantly across vast distances. Social networking sites have benefited from the availability of cheap internet as well as easy access using hand held devices to grow exponentially. A vast majority of people, and especially the youth, have either a twitter or facebook account or any of the myriad social networking sites. What is worrying is that the social networking sites are now being used to promote violence on the internet in a new phenomenon referred to as “internet banging” (Patton, Eschmann and Butler, 56). Young people are using the internet to profess and promote affiliation to gangs, boast of participating in violent acts as a means of gaining notoriety or warn of impending violence in addition to networking with gang members across the nation. Gangs are actively using the internet to spread the notion that committing violent acts is something that an individual should be proud of and this percolates to the youth, who may actively take this message up and actualize it.

Thanks to the increase in computing power, coupled within the miniaturization of technology and enhanced graphics, a new phenomenon of virtual reality is slowly emerging and is likely to dominate the gaming sector in the near future. Virtual reality promises to offer players an immersive life-like experience when playing games by giving individuals three dimensional graphics, tactile response and life-like smells and sounds (Fox, Arena and Bailenson, 97). With the availability of high speed connections, players just need headsets before logging in into the system, where they can take advantage of the tremendous computing power offered by cloud computing. However, this development raises a disturbing question as to what effect the enhanced gaming experiences are likely to have on individuals. With the new generation games, the line between the virtual and the real is likely to be obliterated, as the virtual world becomes an ‘enhanced reality’ (Biocca and Delaney, 58). When individuals ‘actually’ take part in the killing of characters and ‘feel’ and see and ‘touch’ the consequences of their actions, it is likely that their threshold for violence in the real life will be considerably reduced, and they will have no qualms in unleashing violence when things do not go their way. Therefore, it is likely that aggressive behavior in real life is likely to increase as people translate their online all-conquering persona that does not fear to use violence at all times to the real world.

Although the argument that mass media violence has a telling impact in the physical aggression that individuals show in real life is valid to some extent, it will be extremely simplistic to presume that mass media violence is the main cause of violence in real life. This is because violence is an incredibly complex social phenomenon, whose causes cannot be delineated into black and white. There are many factors that in confluence will cause a person to engage in physical violence. Although some of the individuals that have perpetrated school shootings in the US have been described as ordinary, normal kids, a careful examination of their lives shows individuals that may have been experiencing emotional and psychological problems. It is important to note that when the youth go out on killing sprees, they are aware that they are embarking on a suicide mission, where the chances of survival are minimal. A number of the individuals involved in the shooting incidents also take their own lives, implying that the shooting may be a protest against society rather than merely an attempt to enact the violence that they observe on television or video games. Individuals that are maladjusted or those who are not fully integrated into the community have a higher likelihood of committing violent crimes because they lack the social support structures that moderate behavior. Efforts should be directed in ensuring that the youth are not socially excluded and that they feel as members of the community in an attempt to tamper any tendencies towards violent behavior.

Finally it is important to take into cognizance that negative emotions, like rage, anger and disgust are part and parcel of the emotional repertoire of individuals. Repressing the negative emotions without giving an avenue for release leads up to pent up frustrations and anger that might eventually explode into acts of shocking violence. Rather than discouraging the youth from expressing these negative emotions, it is important to encourage them to face their negative emotions and explore ways through which the negative emotions can be released in socially acceptable ways. Video games can be a means through which the negative emotions like rage and anger can be released in a harmless way. Video games, with their gratuitous violence can help individuals to release their anger and rage through the virtual persona and have an emotional catharsis. By living their violent fantasies virtually, individuals can release their real rage and anger through the video games and have a healthier emotional and psychological state than when they have no means through which they can release their negative emotions.

Works Cited

Ahmad, Nizar, Shagufta Shah Farhatullah and Farman Ullah. “Sociological Analysis of Mass Media Role in Promotion of Mob Violence.” Pakistan Journal of Criminology 6.2 (2014): 1972. Print.

Anderson, Craig A., Douglas A. Gentile and Katherine E. Buckley. Violent video game effects on children and adolescents: Theory, research, and public policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Biocca, Fred and Boyd Delaney. Immersive Virtual Reality Technology. In F. Biocca & M.R. Levy (Eds.), Communication in the age of virtual reality (pp. 57–124). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. (1995). Print.

Boyle, K. Media and violence: gendering the debates. New Jersey: Sage Publications, 2004. Print.

Cantor, Joanne and Barbara J. Wilson. “Media and violence: Intervention strategies for reducing aggression.” Media Psychology 5.4 (2003): 363-403. Print.

Ferguson, Christopher J. and John Kilburn. “The public health risks of media violence: A meta-analytic review.” The Journal of pediatrics 154.5 (2009): 759-763. Print.

Fox, Jesse, Dylan Arena, and Jeremy N. Bailenson. “Virtual Reality: A Survival Guide for the Social Scientist.” Journal of Media Psychology, 21.3, 95–113. Print.

Gentile, Douglas A. and Brad J. Bushman. “Reassessing media violence effects using a risk and resilience approach to understanding aggression.” Psychology of Popular Media Culture 1.3 (2012): 138.

Huesmann, L. Rowell and Laramie D. Taylor. “The role of media violence in violent behavior.” Annu. Rev. Public Health 27 (2006): 393-415. Print.

Patton, Desmond Upton, Robert D. Eschmann and Dirk A. Butler. “Internet banging: New trends in social media, gang violence, masculinity and hip hop.” Computers in Human Behavior 29.5 (2013): A54-A59. Document.