Through the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century media has played a substantial role in shaping the minds of today’s youth. There has been an increasing belief that violence in the media poses a threat to public health due to the suggested increase that media has the ability to cause violence and aggression. There are three main forms of media which are regularly viewed and used within studies to determine the different effects they may cause, these include video games, television and video. Many sources suggest that their research has found that this form of violence contributes to a number of short and long problem in the minds if young viewers (Huesmann & Taylor, 2006).
However, there are a number of research articles and researchers who have studied the relationship between violence in media and violent behaviour but have not yet been able to prove any form of relationship to suggest that exposure to violent media can cause an individual to commit violent crime. Instead, there is a risk that exposure to media violence will increase the likelihood of subsequent aggressive behaviour, which could be increased or decreased through a number of factors such as family life or mental state (Brown, 1996). Although, in order to prove whether or not exposure to violence within different forms of media could subsequently result in the ability for people to commit violent crime, more research may need to be done. One form of violent entertainment includes video games, which has been investigated in order to help prove if there is, in fact, a relation to violent crimes people commit. This is due to the increasing concern amongst communities that players have been becoming more aggressive as a result of violent games or have been becoming desensitised to the violence.
Although, there is very little evidence that proves the relationship between playing violent video games and becoming violent in real-life (Brown, 1996). Some researchers depict that a link between video games and aggression is likely due to a suggested ‘third’ variable in relation to an individual’s family environment or innate aggression, although this lacks research and remains unaddressed (Ferguson et al., 2008). One research article examined the effects of violent video games by separating them into two categories, correlational and experimental. An experiment was done testing the relationships between violent game playing and self-reported violent crime among 227 undergraduate students. Results from this correlational study show that a relationship between violent video games and violent crime exists, third variables, such as innate aggression and gender have the ability to possibly influence such relationship. This is seen through a genetic predisposition, which develops from a potential violence-prone personality resulting in an aggressive personality through maturation. Meaning that as a child grows there is a possibility of more violent behaviour if they have more exposure to more violence and aggressive behaviour.
However, violent video games have the opportunity to act as a stylistic catalyst, through which an individual high violence prone environment decides to act violently, this person will then model violence seen in the media. Although, the violence would still occur in another form if the video game had been taken away from been removed from the individual (Ferguson et al., 2008). Television is a high regarded necessity within every household within the western world, with a statistical number of Australians watching around 21 hours of per week. This large amount of viewing time creates many potential effects of more violence seen within the media, compared to videos and video games (Brown, 1996). A study that tests early exposure to television, meaning the exposure of violent media to children, draws upon many theories. These theories include the social-cognitive observational-learning theory, desensitization theory, and social comparison theory, which were tested in order to examine and determine the longitudinal relationship for aggressive behaviour for both males and females (Huesmann, Moise-Titus, Podolski & Eron, 2003).
Researchers were able to gather data involving a range of childhood TV-violence viewing, identification of aggressive TV characters and behaviour, judgments of realism of TV violence, and intellectual ability. While also considering the parents socioeconomic status; which educational level is highly regarded and measured, aggressiveness, parenting practices and attitudes. There was also a follow up study which included 329 of the participants from the original study (Huesmann, Moise-Titus, Podolski & Eron, 2003). This study found a link between early exposure to TV violence and aggressive behaviour following in adult years, however there were no overly significant effects such as violent crime. These findings have also been supported by another research article which also investigates and discusses the same belief of early exposure to violence within the media may possibly result in violent crime. However, in both circumstances their hypotheses were proven incorrect, showing only a relationship between early exposure and aggression in future adult years based on results from a Meta-Analysis (Savage & Yancey, 2008).
Videos are another form of media violence which is thought to most enhance the problem of violent crime. This is due to them being easily accessible and containing more explicit, violent content which is easily accessible 24 hours a day, while still remaining within regulatory guidelines. Videos contain a range of content which stem form being family friendly, to “X” and “R” rated. This is thought to adhere to the problem, due to the young age-groups who are more than likely viewing such mature scenes that in turn shape their minds. There is a study that suggest the viewing “X” and “R” rated content can lead to a ‘copy-cat’ phenomenon. This phenomenon involves the imitation of violent murders or suicides from viewers to undertake a tendency of sensational publicity. It is seen to apply to videos to explain horrific events as, for example, the killing of a toddler in England by two ten-year-old’s, who had apparently watched the movie Child’s Play (Brown, 1996).
There has also been at least eight other murders and other crimes linked to the movie Oliver Stone’s 1994 film Natural Born Killers, which manifests that there is a relationship between media and violent crime, even though is remains partly elusive (Phillips, 2017). Although, there is a challenge in being able to discern between what a copy-cat crime actually is in relation to the individual who commits it. The challenging part of being able to define this particular type of crime is due to the limited amount of research conducted in order to measure its concept or how it actually occurs. One particular researcher, Jacqueline Helfgott, had suggested that factors such as the individual characteristics, the characteristics of media sources, their relationship to media, and their cultural factors are influential to the way people commit crimes. For instance, it is believed that the presence of media more often influences the how aspect of crime, rather than why someone commits a crime (Phillips, 2017).
In summary, the controversial belief that exposure to violence conveyed within the media can in turn cause some individuals to commit violent crimes has not been proven correct, which can be seen through broad research this has been conducted. This is due to limited investigations and evidence being found or conducted in order to prove this statement. Instead researchers have found evidence proving a relationship between media violence and aggression, as well as, a relationship between the what type of media individuals watch and the crimes people commit and the way they commit them.