I deeply wish that violence on TV and in video games did not affect people to become more aggressive, but it’s difficult to argue against the evidence. It does desensitize children and adults, even though we can draw the line between real and fiction. Children are especially prone to modeling what they see. I do believe that seeing violence in real life is more damaging than seeing it on TV, but it’s more widespread and accessible on TV and in games.
It seems like kids are being exposed to violence more and more at younger ages. First-person shooters are one thing, but now with the headsets, they hear all kinds of things, angry and aggressive and vile. Without that, you still have games like Grand Theft Auto, which are not meant for six-year-olds but believe that six-year-olds are being allowed to watch this gameplay. When I was their age, I was playing Zelda and Pokemon and Harvest Moon, and I always balanced out fighting games with puzzle games like Nancy Drew. Games like Fable and Knights of the Old Republic give you a choice on how you want to play, and I naturally always played “good”, but a lot of kids and young adults find more pleasure in playing “evil”. Why is that? Why do we want to be exposed to violence and aggressiveness? Why do we want kids playing these games and modeling aggressive behavior?
It’s not just the violence that affects us though. I heard of people going up to the main actor of “Nurse Jackie” and bragging that they’re addicted to the same pills that her character is. There was an increase in meth lab incidents after “Breaking Bad” became popular. People may play Need for Speed and drive more aggressively. You can play any of the Silent Hill games and you’ll be looking over your shoulder and around corners for a while. These shows and games amp us up. We become immersed visually and emotionally. When the visual piece leaves us and we turn the movie off, the emotions stay with us and influence our day. Yes, people are easily influenced by what they see. The longer the exposure, the deeper the influence. Even aside from Bandura’s Bobo doll experiment, there are studies that link violent games to later aggressiveness, even years later. If you don’t believe me, do some research even just on Google Scholar. I truly wish it wasn’t true, but the links are there. Many of these studies do take into account the third factor, which is other factors linked with aggressiveness like age, life stage, natural temperament, family life, etc, and they still find a correlation. Give a violent game to a random sampling of people and they will act more aggressively for a while after playing, when compared to the group given a non-violent game. It works for TV shows, too. Violent viewed breeds aggressive behavior and thoughts. All I can say is thank goodness for “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”
I wish I could think of more prosocial and positive TV shows; not sitcoms or reality shows, but real, in-depth TV shows for adults. Why does our entertainment have to include such violence, anger, drama, discord? Certainly you need a conflict to resolve, but do we have to see time again, the resolution coming about with fighting, guns, blood, or lies, backstabbing, and trickery? Why is this more entertaining to us? Why is this more entertaining to kids?
It’s nearly impossible to shield children from the influences of violence in media. Hopefully, we can create enough positive, prosocial exposure to combat the aggressiveness that witnessing violence can create.