Does Exposure to Media Violence Cause Aggressive Behavior?

Reviewed on 6/25/2021

Studies and research indicate that exposure to media violence is a strong predictor of aggressive behavior. Research indicates that people learn their attitudes about violence at a very early age and exposure to violence desensitizes people to violence.
Studies and research indicate that exposure to media violence is a strong predictor of aggressive behavior. Research indicates that people learn their attitudes about violence at a very early age and exposure to violence desensitizes people to violence.

Studies and research indicate that exposure to media violence is a strong predictor of aggressive behavior. An average child may be exposed to about 10,000 violent incidents in a year. Of these, at least 500 incidents pose a high risk of the child imitating aggression and lead to them becoming desensitized to violence. Viewing habits of children contributing to their aggressive behaviors may start early at the age of eight years. Moreover, socioeconomic status and family dynamics may play a role in their aggressive behaviors. Furthermore, each exposure has a developmental effect that cultivates traits that increase the likelihood of overt expression of violence in later life.

  • Researchers think that there is a reciprocal relationship among viewing media violence at a young age, aggressive behavior and developing a taste for seeing even more media violence.
  • The most concerning fact is that research indicates that people learn their attitudes about violence at a very early age (eight years or younger) and, apparently once learned, those attitudes are difficult to change.
  • Recent research has shown that exposure to media violence causes both children and adults to behave in a much more aggressive manner, affecting them for years to come.
  • The intensity of desensitization of violence and tendency for violent behavior increase as the child grows and becomes an adult.
  • Experiments conducted have revealed that exposure to media violence is attributed to other health problems among children and adults. This included high blood pressure, increased heartbeat and nightmares.

It is well established that children learn through imitation and observation. Children are influenced by incidents/news in the media. Exposure to media violence has contributed to numerous mental health and physical problems in young people, children and a few adults within the community.

These problems include

  • Depression
  • Desensitization to violence
  • Nightmares
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Poor sleep quality

As screens become ubiquitous in society, parents may feel helpless in preventing their children from seeing violent media. Although you cannot always have complete control, you can decrease your child’s exposure to aggressive television, film and video games. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends the following.

  • Watch television and play video games with them. If you see something violent, change the content. If you cannot always control their media exposure, use parental locks and other management systems.
  • Avoid giving your child a television in their bedroom.
  • Do not let your child watch or play content that you know is violent.
  • Talk to them about why certain media remains off-limits.
  • Involve other parents in the community in your decision to ban violent media.
  • If your child sees inappropriate violence, have age-appropriate conversations about the content.

The relationship between media violence and real-world violence is moderated by the nature of media content and characteristics of and social influences on the individual exposed to that content. Still, the average overall size of the effect is large enough to place it in the category of known threats to public health. Clinicians and pediatricians should be more aware of the high level of influence the ever-expanding choice of entertainment media is having on the mental and physical health of children and young adults. In addition, playing video games or watching programs related to violence should be regulated and restricted to age-limited areas or appropriate age groups.

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References
Rowan University: "The Effects of Viewing Television Violence on School Children." https://rdw.rowan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2487&context=etd

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: "TV Violence." https://www.kff.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/key-facts-tv-violence.pdf

Journal of Adolescent Health: "The Impact of Electronic Media Violence: Scientific Theory and Research." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704015/

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