The Media-Violence Link

In the news today: an FTC report indicating that the movie, game and music industry is deliberately targeting younger viewers with inappropriate material; that in up to 80% of the time, these kids are able to obtain access to violent movies, games and music.

Is it time for a class-action suit against the worst offenders, just like what happened with the Tobacco Industry, and what some are trying to do with the Gun Industry?

Now I couldn’t find any studies definitively linking violent movies/games/music to violent behavior, but, strictly IMHO, I think the link is there.

I mean if a person/group can be incited to violence by a gifted orator (Hitler comes readily to mind), then is it unreasonable to think that a succeptible, impressionable young mind might be influenced by violent imagery/lyrics?

Note: I am not likening the media to Adolph Hitler!

The extent is the only question in my mind; how many of these kids (as a percentage) are actually influenced by violent media content, and how many just see/hear a cool movie/game/music.

What do you all think?


If you go to the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site, you’ll find the full text of the report, including exhaustive (and exhausting) appendices that probably quintuple its length. Among them is a study examining links between media and violence. I didn’t read it.

Regarding the Hitler parallel: according to Daniel Goldhagen’s still very controversial book Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, blaming Hitler alone is a vast oversimplification.

Games for most systems like N64, Playstation, Dreamcast, etc, have a rating system for their games. If the game is rated MA or M, then it cannot be sold to people under 17. After it has been purchased, the makers of the game are no longer responsible for who it affects or plays it. Movies and TV on the other hand, have no way to enforce a similar policy, just make the worst shows latest at night. The lawsuit should be more specific about what part of the media should be getting sued.

In theory. As the report details very persuasively, this rarely the case in practice.

As an analogy, it probably was; but it was just an analogy.

Another way to put it: some local Kleegle of a Klan group get’s his boys whipped up into a frenzy and they all go out to bomb/murder/etc.

Admittedly, those Klansmen are just getting to hear what they already believed; they were already predisposed to believe what they heard, and acted upon it when called to action.

The link here might be a youngster possibly already predisposed towards violence; the media images/sounds may/may not reinforce and compel him to act upon his predisposition (I think they do, but to what extent?).

But there might also be kids who would never think up/act out violence on their own, until they see/hear enough violenece in the various mediums and act out.

The question I’m asking is this: Whether a juvenile is/isn’t predisposed to violence, does violent content in movies/games/music contribute to violent behavior in juveniles?

I know that this is going to be an “IMHO” thread, but I have confidence (usually) in the intelligence of fellow Dopers to come up with some well reasoned argument for/against.


That could only come from very bad parents.

I believe that violent material CAN cause violent behavior.

Much like I believe that the beach can cause drownings. Just like some kids are better swimmers than others, some kids are more impressionable than others.

I don’t let my kids run around the beach by themselves. I also control what type of media I let my kids see. My 8 year old is very impressionable and we control his viewing very tightly. My 12 y.o. stepson on the other hand, has a very effective BS detector, and we let him watch wrestling, etc.
Just like I wouldn’t blame the beach if a kid drowned, however, I don’t blame the media if a kid ends up screwed in the head. Parents should be more involved in what their kids are involved in.

I am more concerned about inconsenquential violence, such as the violence in those Warner Brothers cartoons, where the characters bounce right back up. The children chould be taught that sometimes people do not ‘bounce up’ from receiving an act of violence. They need a counterbalance to what they see in the media. If that counterbalance is not provided, either by parents, schools, or temples, then there will be problems later on.

capacitor, you must’ve hated The A Team.

Sorry, ExTank, but I just can’t pass this chance up. :slight_smile:
Guns don’t kill people-Movies about guns kill people!

All right, enough of this. Let me just relate a couple of real-life examples.

There was a kid in my local arcade who wanted to play The House of The Dead 2 (very bloody zombie-shooting splatterfest). His father was there. Said father not only put in the tokens, he held up his kid to get a better shot of the screen. Well, it wasn’t a long game, of course, but he did last long enough to put up some pretty impressive blood sprays. Neither person looked the slightest bit shaken during or after the experience.

Some time later. Different arcade. Game was CarnEvil, another splatterfest. Two kids start a game from the beginning, kill countless zombies and monsters, and make it to almost the end. Meanwhile their dad is hovering nearby offering words of encouragement and giving them tokens whenever they ran out (which was pretty often). Absolutely no horror, shock, fright etc. from anyone.

Reality trumps stupid made-up numbers every single time.

BTW, just for the record, I have played many of those same games and watched many of those same movies, and, of all the things that have brought out violent impulses in me, they weren’t any of them. (I have been infinitely more enraged by that execrable Bust a Move than by Samurai Shodown.)

Nobody knows what the damn percentage of susceptible kids is, but that’s beside the point. Of course some people (regardles of age) are going to be adversely affected by The House of the Dead 2 or CarnEvil, but that’s not a justification for denying everyone these kind of games. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: If parents monitor and control their kids’ behavior, there is no meed for ANY censorship whatsoever. Of course, considering how many unbelivably neglectful parents there are running around right now, maybe that’s wishful thinking.

Am I the only one bothered that the report used the word “children”? I mean, the companies are accused of marketing to 12-17 crowd, not six year olds. But I suppose there wouldn’t be as much outrage over the marketing to teenagers, and you know how politicians love to get brownie points from non-issues. So the end up using a word that works up the electorate.

Using "children" suggests the people targeted by the industry are 5 or 7 (definitely an age where they are way too impressionable). Most teens learn to make the distinction between fantasy and reality. And how would these moral crusaders react to the fact that youth crime has been decreasing over the years?

Certainly, if someone is exposed to nothing but violence, it’ll affect him. Just like how if someone is kept away from all forms of violence, it’ll affect him, a la Rod and Todd Flanders :D. As has been mentioned above, there needs to be other things to counteract this balance… for such-and-such amount of violence, you also need a kid to read, or draw, or do some mathematical equations, or play outside, or whatever. Basically, you don’t want too much of any one thing.

They have been able to show a correlation, so it appears ther is a relationship between violence in media and aggression in youths. But they have not been able to say what, exactly, that relationship is.

If they are saying that aggressive kids would not have been aggressive without the media, I think they’re dreaming. I have also seen a report that suggests that some researchers confused aggression with ‘rough play’. (did a search, but could no longer find a link to the report).

Does violence in the media cause real-life violence. I don’t think so. Hey, there a lot of kids who watch this stuff and are not considered ‘agressive’. So far, what I see in reports is ‘The kid watched violent stuff and then did violence’. I think the question should be ‘Did this material cause him to do something he would not have done otherwise?’

When 2 adult psycos imitated a scene in ‘Money Train’ (where a toll-booth attended was set on fire), I heard many people, including experts, blame the film. They were assuming that these 2 villians would never have commited a heinous act, were it not for this film.

IMHO, we are a violent species. Always were, always will be, since Cain rose up and slew Able. Aggressiveness is encouraged in our society, particularly in boys, and it starts at an early age.

There will always be sociopaths, miscreants, thugs and bullies. It’s a little starry-eyed to think that stopping the violence in media will create a peaceful society where no one acts out in violence.

and whose spelling isn’t that far off either.

So you’re saying I shouldn’t deliberately smash into the bears when I play Cruisin’ Exotica, lest I actually be influenced to hop in my dad’s truck and make some grizzly pâté? By the same reasoning, I should also avoid Dance Dance Revolution, since the last thing I need right now is the spirit of techno invading me. :rolleyes:

If there is a link between media violence and viewer violence, it’s probably more along the lines of media violence + negative parental/peer influence= increased likelihood of viewer violence.

As for the Hitler/KKK analogies: Both Hitler and the KKK’s power were more the result of obedience rather than influence per se. Hitler was a military leader; the KKK, by my understanding, had a ranking system and a hierarchy among klaverns. Nazis soldiers and Klansmen didn’t necessarily do the things they did simply because they thought human suffering was cool. This is not to say that they were all twisted innocents, but the ingrained sense of obedience to their leaders must have played in somehow. To liken the media’s influence to Hitler and the KKK is, at the very least, excessively flattering to the media.

I run a weekly e-zine covering the computer games industry and one of our columnists has dealt with the issue recently.

One of his columns dealt with the recent Indianapolis decree controlling access to video games:

The other deals with the new limitations K-Mart has placed on sales of some games to minors:

His writing style is a bit over the top but I’d be interested in hearing what you folks thought about his arguments.

I think he is absolutelty right.

Quote from link>>>>>from Sen. Sam Brownback today – “There is no longer a question as to whether exposing children to violent entertainment is a public health risk. It is – just as surely as tobacco or alcohol.” >>>>>

And now 2 quote’s from the film ‘American President’.
“His problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. His problem is that he can’t sell it!” And “All he’s interested in is making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it!”

IMHO, it’s a smokescreen. It makes him look like he’s concerned and working on the problem without actually having to accomplish something. It’s a no-risk situation because:
a) he looks good to easily frightened and narrow thinking constituents.
b) if his efforts fail, he can get plenty of press time accusing ‘those godless, greedy filth-merchants poisoning our youth’.
c) if his efforts succeed and the problem does not go away, he can always fall back to the ‘moral decay’ speil.

I’m a big fan of John Douglas, the retired criminal profiler that worked 25 years for the FBI in the Behavioral Unit. I’ve read a couple of his books. This guy is NOT a psychologist, but he knows what he’s doing. Anyway, after studying criminal behavior for 25 years and being right on the money quite often in his assessments therefore aiding state, federal and local police forces in bringing some of our most notorious and dangerous preditors to justice, I kind of trust his judgement. He believes…

That violence in movies, music, games etc. DO NOT CAUSE criminal behavior, not directly. A person that is not inclined to violence will not commit violent acts just because he watches “Natural Born Killers”. But violence and sexually explicit material is often facinating to and becomes early on a tool for the violent fantasies of violent sexual preditors. He does also believe that violence on television, in music, games and in the media “desensitizes” many people to it’s effects. You could perhaps liken it’s effects to the difference of say people who live in New York City and are not shocked to hear of several murders a night as opposed to folks in a small town in Nebraska learning of a killing when they haven’t had one in years. The reaction of the public will be different because of exposure.

Violent images are also not potrayed, especially in movies and televison very accurately. The hero is shot and then continues to fight the bad guy for the next 20 minutes until he finally collapses and is sent to the hospital by abulance with a kiss from the love interest side-kick. Not so in real life. A guy gets shot and in a matter of minutes is in shock from the trama and loss of blood. I guess you see what I mean.

I do have to agree. There are no studies that I know of that conclusively prove exposure to violence or pornography will cause an otherwise normal individual to commit crimes or engage in violent behavior.

But being a parent, I’d prefer that my children choose less violent material to listen to and watch. I do not want them to become desensitized to violent behavior nor do I want them to become less empathetic toward other human beings. And I also believe that it is my right as a consumer to be warned of the contents. I can pick up a can of peas in the grocery store, turn it over and see everything that is in that can. There isn’t any reason I can think of why I should not be able to do that with a book, video, CD or game.


Needs2Know and I have not always seen eye to eye on some things, but regarding the last post, all I can say is “Yeah, what she said.”