Since the beginning of television, research has been accumulating on its relationship to violence intake and tolerance. In an environment full of violence, it is beyond question that it impacts our behaviors. Living in the digital age has its perks, of course, but those hardly make a dent in the minds of our society. Media violence has been known to have long and short term effects on the youth of America as well as adults. It is a necessary precaution for a society to be aware of these instances as well as ways to prevent or limit our intake. Though not always manageable to limit or prevent, the ability that Americans have to educate themselves is one of the best ways to notice and observe violence. The amount of tolerance for violence and gore has increased to unnecessary levels. This cultural crusade fed the negative implications of the world. Cell phones, social media, video games, television, and movies all undoubtedly increase one’s tolerance to violence and saturates our youth in the idea that it is normal in society.
The rather recent introduction of cell phones in America has increased exposure to violence. Cell phones have adopted new technologies like text messages, email, and social media applications. These technological advancements strip children of their innocence by giving such easy access to it. The use of cell phones also opens up a new type of bullying called cyberbullying. This piece of technology has made it easy for predators to target others and gives them a new front, social media. Social media emerged in the 1960s and into the 1970s.
It is argued that this was the beginning of social media because of the various organizations attempting to “find ways to get computers to communicate with one another” (Terrell). This ability had its perks but it also opened up the ability to see the violence of other nations without any interference of the governments. This allowed for raw, genuine footage, photos, etc to emerge into society. With the United States being an MEDC (more economically developed country) many Americans could afford the technology needed to view this. From there, Americans wanted to see what their government would not show them. New social media sites emerged after this in the 2000s such as Friendster, Linkedin, MySpace, and more recent applications like Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Facebook, and Tik Tok allowed for even faster sharing. These apps also publicize ideas of violence and gore. For those who do not play video games, this is another way to receive this. Apps like this also contain memes, videos or various sharable items that make fun of the violence of modern times and numb the mind.
A recent example is the World War III scare. Teens ranging from 15-24 made fun of this event by joking about the draft, the war itself, politics, etc. This demonstrates how our exposure to violence had altered our viewpoints. Neighborhoods, communities, families, and friends have tried to protect our youth from global communication of negative implications.They have become victims of something they have always been exposed to by their parents and generations before them. The growing fear of violence in our own communities has made adults conscious and has limited kid’s involvement in society. “Our response should not be to panic and keep our children ‘indoors’ because the ‘streets’ out there are dangerous” (Huesmann). Rather our response should be allowing our youth to experience the world in our communities. This allows for some exposure to the real world but does not necessarily give them full on violent exposure that is seen from social media and technology.
There are mixed emotions about violent video games. Games like the Call of Duty series gives gamers the ability to play through violence experiences and exposes them to real-life encounters which demands complete control of their emotions during and after participation. “Playing violent video games leads to more aggressive moods and behaviors and detracts from the players’ feelings of empathy and sensitivity to aggression” (The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research). Most video games nowadays contain violence on an increasing scale. Because of cell phones, virtually everyone has access to violent games. It opens up more possibilities for those who do not like hardcore gaming by “reaching a more casual gaming audience” (history.com editors) through cell phones. Though there are ratings, few people actually care about them, “and most of these games are violent; 94% of games rated (by the video game industry) as appropriate for teens are described as containing violence, and ratings by independent researchers suggest that the real percentage may be even higher” (Huesmann). There were attempts by senators to pass bills that limit video games in certain aspects regarding ratings, which were technically voluntary. A bill was discussed, but dismissed, that would charge any retailer that sold an M rated (similar to a rated R film) game to a minor would face fines and community service (Markey, Ferguson). Because most games are completed in an hourly form, people expose themselves to this behavior for hours on end playing games. It also makes players active in committing violent acts in these games. This act desensitizes the player and becomes immune to real-life violence. On occasion, players play together. This leads to the mass social conditioning of one common theme. As of 2009, over 83% of homes have at least one video game unit (Huemann). “Video games use peaks during middle childhood with an average of 65 minutes per day for 8–10 year-olds, and declines to 33 minutes per day for 15–18 year-olds” (Huesmann).
At the beginning of television, few households had a television so people would join together outside store windows to watch. Even with its harsh start in society during the 20s and 30s, the idea grew in favor and by 1948 America entered the ‘Golden Age’ of television (Allen, Thompson). Though the radio was still preferred for its profits, audience size, and respectability, the television industry boomed. Four main networks emerged as the leaders of news and entertainment; ABC, CBS, NBC, and DuMont Television Network. There was little to no violence on these stations with exceptions of political news. The television was intended for entertainment and informational purposes as it was too taboo for stations to have violence. There was, however, a questionnaire titled Movies and Conduct, that explained the likelihood of negative influences being efficacious and real.
Television was the top way that Americans receive news and media. 12 years after the Vietnam war began, the government introduced the war in a shocking reality. They brought it home and shared it through television in people’s living rooms. The government sent men to broadcast and film this war and use the footage as propaganda to convince men to join the war efforts. The Vietnam war became even more hated due to this exposure and it adopted the name, ‘The Living Room War’. This increase in crime is potentially due to the ability to see the violence of the war in the comfort of our own living rooms. “Civil tensions exploded amidst antiwar and civil rights movements, and the incidence of violent crime (defined as murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravate assault) doubled over the decade” (Perry). The exposure to the ‘real world’ issues that are happening across the ocean frightened many Americans and they began to retaliate with protests against the government. Never before has a civilian seen the horrors of war in America. Violence of previous conflicts like World War I and World War II were acknowledged, but not in the ways that this war was seen. Photographs and articles of these wars were published, but they were altered to show things less intensely. The television footage shows the raw footage with few alterations.
By the end of the 60s, Americans believed they were now living in the ‘age of violence’. They had been overly exposed to real violence and gore. Many Americans believed this because the television corrupted their children and plagued their homes. Because of this backlash on the television and its counterparts, Motion Pictures Association created a rating system that was put in place to allow parents and children to know if a certain film was appropriate for a specific age group. The rating system did not stop violence in films and television shows, but “in 1972, the United States Surgeon General has deemed television violence as a public health problem” (Perry). Contemporaneously, television shows have no real rating to protect certain age groups from their content. “Violent acts were classified in terms of their historical setting, environmental setting, geographical location, form of behavior, type of weapons used, motivational contect, injury consequences for victims, aggressor and victim demography (gender, age, ethnic origin), and character role type” (Gunter 686). These factors play a large role in how people view this violence. If a young male sees an adult male shoot another male, they will begin to believe that this is tolerated behavior. It is hard for people to limit their view on violence since over 60% of television shows contain some form of violence. Television shows act as propaganda for this disturbance by constantly pushing the limit of gore and violence.
Hollywood has always been more popular than television. But unlike their counterparts on television, Hollywood films have always had some form of violence. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics discovered that the amount of violence in movies had doubled since the 50s (Bushman et al.). Violence is in fact, the very basis of films. The plot almost always demands some kind of violence ranging from a fistfight to an explosive mass killing of innocent people. “It is apparent that they, like television, are also frequently violent; violent films have attracted large audiences; violence has characterized many popular film stars (i.e. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, etc). Yet, the violence as depicted in many current films differs substantially from television violence” (Meyer 112). In movies, violent death is always followed by the character disappearing. It never truly shows the consequences of that death other than what the plot demands. Screenwriters are also forced to create ‘bad guys’ with little information known about them because the violent actions against them always seem justified in the eyes of viewers (Osborn). People can rate movies with the ‘violence formula’ which entails a series of questions that determine the level of violence. Questions include the following: “What role does violence play in the film? Was this story developed because it is violent, or is it a valuable story of human relationships in which violence is a necessary and integral part? Are the consequences of the violence shown? If so, what purpose does it serve the plot? How does it develop a character? What kinds of violence do the ‘good guys’ use? How do their acts of violence differ from those used by the ‘bad guys’?” (Osborn). The considered impact of these questions allows viewers to understand the impact ‘fake violence’ has on society. These are not limited to the specified: people model the behaviors depicted, teachings that violence has no real repercussions is noticed and the hero’s use of violence demonstrates that it is tolerated as a response to another act of violence, and finally, shows that there is possibly more violence in the world than originally perceived.
Exposure to violence has it’s long and short term effects. Short term exposure is mainly due to “priming processes, arousal processes, and the immediate mimicking of specific behaviors” (Huesmann). The priming process puts visions of aggression in the minds of people. This action penetrates their judgement and makes acts of aggression more likely. Arousal processes are based off of transfers of emotion to someone. The emotion of aggression is displayed in everyday life in the more inappropriate situations. Mimicking specific behaviors can become long term as time progresses. Initially, it is a direct response of toleration to the violence observed. These effects can lead to more long term effects like observational learning, desentization, and enactive learning. Observational learning is how most people learn. It is based off of emotions of a person in a situation. This is especially dangerous in younger children because seeing violent acts shows them that it is tolerated and accepted. During one’s youth, their ideas of the world, religion, family, friends, etc are developed. If there is an introduction and continuation of violence, they will develop more extreme feelings and actions towards those things. Similarly, desentization plays off of emotion too. The more we see something, the less it seems to bother us. If a person commits a violent act, they will not think about the negative elements of the situation. Finally, the idea of enactive learning acts as a conditioner to the previous two long term effects. In video games primarily, the player is directly committing these acts through the game. People learn by physically doing the activity and this is no different. All these effects can change a person. Our tolerance to violence was its very foundation within these effects and elements.
The vast accumulation of research linking violence to technology is undeniable. It is beyond question that it affects our behaviors and responses. Living in the digital age has positive undertones, but those hardly make a dent in society compared to the negative implications. Media violence has long and short term effects on the youth of America and adults as well. Our exposure to technological advances opens up our minds to violence and we are forced to accept it as the general norm. Our youth has been saturated in violence which increases our tolerance and they are taught that violent acts are permitted in society due to the advancements of technology.