Societal Effects of Violence in the Media


SocietalEffects of Violence in the Media

Mediaviolence is described by the portrayal of the use of physical forceand power of the platforms of all the types of media. The portrayalof violence in the media is a concern of many people due to thebelief that such violence influences the use of violence in the realworld. On the other hand, the use of violence in the media is takenas the hallmark of the entertainment world and considered harmless tothe behavior of people in the society. This paper seeks to discussthe debate by exploring the social effects of media violence in thesociety. Through the use of the theories that relate media violenceand behavior, this paper will discuss the impact of media violencethe society with a view of showing the justified opinion on thematter.

SocietalEffects of Violence in the Media

Mediaviolence is a concern for every person in the society because of thefear that the violent content portrayed in the media influences thereal behavior of the people in the society. The greatest group ofconcern is the younger population who spends more time on the media,and has a fragile character that can copy what they see (Craig et al,2003). In his social learning works in the 1970s, Albert Banduraobserved that children tend to imitate what they see (Bandura, 2004).The association of the learning aspect of seeing and the danger posedby media violence leads to the belief that the violence in the mediaaffects the society. The concern is validated by the extent of theviolence that is portrayed in the media.

Theissue of violence in the media is elevated to a global concernbecause of the availability of the media content in the globe.Because of technological developments, the society has reached overany content on any part of the world. It is particularly a concern ofhow easily children can access platform of media since they areyoung. According to Craig et al (2003), the availability of violentcontent is much higher in the modern society because the media isopen to all ages, and the content distributed is not sanctioned.According to Boxeret al (2009), childrenhave access to television, the internet, video games and distributedDVD videos that have excessive use of violence (Christopher, 2011).The availability of the content on the media has enhanced the extentof influence of the media violence on the behavior of the people inthe society.

Theimpact of violence in the media has become so influential thatchildren from the tender age learn violent behavior or characters.According to Craig et al (2003), young children see violentcharacters in the media and identify with them. They end up beingattracted to like the media characters and start emulating theiractions(Krcmar&amp Kathryn, 2000).Forinstance, many children are bought presents with characters likesuperman, batman, and related heroic characters that only exist inthe media and movies. While these characters are for entertainment,their influence on the children is negative because they representviolent characters in the movies. The exposure to these charactershappens to children at an age that is so young for them to repel thetemptation of copying the violent conduct.

However,the character of a person shapes the behavior of individuals, whichimpact on the overall behavior of the society. The behavior of thepeople in the society is not determined by the things they see, orencounter, but the habits that are shaped by the society. This meansthat the violence in the media is not the cause of the violentbehavior, but the habits that the society natures in the society.According to Boxeret al (2009), thesociety that does not nature the good habits will have it peoplepracticing violence and emulating the actions they see on the media.In this case, the media is not the cause, but the facilitator of theembrace of the violent behavior.

TheoriesExplaining the Relationship

Tounderstand the impact of violence in the media on the behavior and ofthe people in the society, a number of theories have been put todescribe the relationship between the two aspects. While thesetheories do not give a complete description of the relationship, theygive a theoretical framework that helps a person to understand theimpact of violence in the media over the society. They appropriatelygive the relationship between the practice of aggression and theviewed violence.

Oneof the theories is Stimulation and catharsis. The catharsis theoryasserts that watching media violence reduces the urges for aggressionfor the viewers of the aggressive content. On the other hand, theStimulationtheory asserts that watching violence on the mediastimulates the acts of aggression in real life(Signorielli, 2005). Thestudy on the stimulation/catharsis theory observes that the resultsof viewed violence are portrayed in two ways the aggressiveresponses and hostile responses(Signorielli, 2005). Thestudy of the theory involved the comparison of these two responsesunder the aggressiveversus neutral film, and instigation against no instigation as theconditions. Inthis theory, the decrease response in hostile ways is referred to ascatharsis while the increase in aggressive responses is referred toas the Stimulation.

Thestimulation theory agrees with the people who argue that mediaviolence directly leads to the real violence in the society. Thetheory conforms to the belief that the media feeds people withviolent content that influences their ideology that the world isviolent. Therefore, the theory argues for the direct impact of themedia violence to people in the society by indicating that there isan increase I the aggressive responses after people watch violence inmedia such as films. Therefore, the theory suggests that children whoview a lot of violence are more likely to be violent in life. This isbecause they are more likely to view violence as the most effectiveway of settling the conflicts that they encounter in life.

Thetheory of stimulation puts the effect of media violence intoperspective by giving a direct relationship between actual aggressionand the viewed aggression, the theory affirms the argument by thepeople who view the media as the cause of violence in the society.The media violence portrayed in the viewed films and screenplaysinfluences the thought system of the people in the society to embracethe media violent actions as an option in their habits (Craig et al,2003). Coupled with aggressive actions for materiality, violencebecomes not only a learnt aspect, but also a practiced aspect of thesociety. The stimulation theory gives the reason why people getstimulated to act in certain ways that are violent, just as what theysee in the media.

Onthe other hand, the people who argue that media violence does notimpact on the society tend to identify with the catharsis part of thetheory. The catharsis argues for the reduction of the aggressive orhostile response after people have watched violent content in themedia(Signorielli, 2005). Thisis argued by the fact that people tend to reduce the urge of usingviolence as a habit in their lives. This can be because the violentconduct they see in the media influences them to avoid it as anoption of solving conflicts in life. This explains the character ofpeople who do not change even with the exposure to the violent mediathrough watching violent films, videos and playing violent videogames (Christopher, 2011).

Theother theory put forward is the disinhibition theory which holds thatpeople have acquired a set of ethics and morals that shape theirlives and control people from engaging in some acts(Signorielli, 2005). Accordingto the theory, the moral ideas and ethical perspectives that prohibitpeople from engaging in acts that contravene the ethics or moralsthey value. This theory refers to the ethics and the morals as theinhibitions that inhibit the negative behavior(Signorielli, 2005). Therefore,media violence affects the behavior of people if they lose theinhibitors to the violence portrayed in the media. Over time, theexposure of people in the media erodes the ethical and moral valuesthat inhibit them from engaging in the acts of violence.

Inthis case, people engage in violence after losing the inhibitions asa result of the influence of the media that is constantly violent.This shows that the media is a strong tool that affects the characterof a person, even to the extent of losing the previously acquiredvalues. In addition, the media have content that not only erode thevalues that inhibit violence, but also replaces the good morals withthe violent ones(Signorielli, 2005). Asa result, the media violence impacts on the society by turning theinhibitors in people into motivators to violence. This happensbecause of the ability of the media to influence the judgmentprocesses of the people, to ignore the inhibitors and apply theideals learnt in the violent media content.

Atthe same time, the theory of disinhibition explains the extent ofinfluence that the media has over the people in the society(Signorielli, 2005). Thetheory brings to light the concept that the society is competing withthe media in formulating values in the society. This means that mediaviolence is out to erode the positive aspects of the society that thecommunity teaches children at a young age. As a result of theteachings, especially in the religious and educational institutions,people gain the inhibitors that shape good behavior and inhibit thebad practices. However, the violent content in the media erodes whatthe society had planted. Therefore, this theory tends to concludethat media violence affects the behavior of people in the societynegatively.

However,opponents may view this theory in a different perspective that themedia violence does not necessarily erode the behavior of a person.It can be argued that the inhibitors such as good morals and ethicsare not eroded by the media but the society itself. People may arguethat the violent media are only a reflection of the society that ismore violent such that it is reflected in the media(Krcmar&amp Kathryn, 2000).Peopleargue that the media only reflect the extent of erosion of theinhibitors by other factors such as bad parenting, peer influence andgreed for wealth. Therefore, the media just tell a story of how thecommunity is, and the state of the violence in the society. Thismeans that the media does not erode the inhibitors but present theerosion of the inhibitors.

Thetheory of Desensitization is perhaps the most appropriate theory thatexplains the impact of violence in the media to the society. Thetheory asserts that the exposure of people to violence in the mediadesensitizes a person to the life of violence that they see it as anorm in life (Krahe et al, 2011). According to the theory, theexposure to violence creates a sense of normalcy where the people whohad feared and avoided violence before sees it as the normal way ofoperating (Krahe et al, 2011). The exposure makes a person`s viewlife differently and embrace violence as an option in solvingconflicts and issues in the society. The desensitizing process of theexposure to violence is the media makes a person view the world as aviolent world that appreciates the use of violent conduct in life.

Thepeople who agree that media violence leads to the real violence,identify with the desensitizing argument of the theory. This happensbecause the media has a powerful way of influencing the views of thepeople about the content that they are watching (Krahe et al, 2011).The extent of the influence is much stronger on children who have alesser experience in life than the adults. Children therefore areoriented to a world of violence in the films they watch, the videosthey view, and the video games they play (Christopher, 2011). Throughthe longest exposure to the violent content on the media, and violentcharacters they use in the video games, their perspective aboutviolence changes. They tend to see it as a part of the modern daylife, rather than an extreme of negative behavior.

Violencein media and Children

Childrenare affected by the violence in the media differently from theadults. This is because of the differences between children and theadults in terms of learning and repelling the influence of theexternal aspects of life (Bandura, 2004). The adults have theadvantage of having a higher rationale that differentiates the goodand the bad habits or behavior from the society. The learningprocesses of the adults and children are different because of thelevel of maturity that they have. While the adults are mature enoughto understand the evils of emulating the media content, children donot have the maturity to discern the influence of the negative media.

Inaddition, the media have different influence over the adults from theinfluence of children because of the differences in the learningabilities. The learning abilities are different because of thedifference in the extent of emulation of the actions, characters andpractices of the people they see on the (Bandura, 2004). Boxeret al (2009) arguesthat emulation is the strongest aspect of learning and acquiringhabits and behavior in the society. Therefore, children and adultswill experience different impacts of violence in the media because ofthe differences in the depth of the affection they have towards thecharacters that portray violence in the media. The learning abilitiesof the adult people are more advanced than those of the children. Asa result, their speed of emulating what they see in the media isdifferent.

Moreover,adults and children spend different spans of time on the media.Therefore, the impact that the violence in the media will have onthem will be different. According to Boxeret al (2009), adultsspend time with the media when they are out of work, watching movies,internet videos or violent news items. On the other hand, childrenspend time with the media when on holiday, at home after school orthough the online media. The time spent on the media influences theextent at which the media will affect of influence the behavior of aperson. In addition, the time spent on the media increases theprobability of consuming violent content in terms of films, programsand documentaries where violence is used. The difference in theimpact of the media between adults and children is thus described bythe time each of the two groups spends on the media.

Moreover,the type of the media that adults and children are exposed to isdifferent. Therefore, the impact that violent media will have on thetwo will be different. While the adults are exposed to media thatportrays higher levels of violence, children are mostly exposed tocharacters that are violent. For instance, adults tend to watchviolent movies that have violence as the main theme. On the otherhand, children watch cartoons that depict violent characters, rightfrom the beginning (Craig et al, 2003). Therefore, children tend toemulate the characters rather than the actions of the characters.This is more powerful than just emulating the behavior. According toBoxeret al (2009), behaviorand habits are shaped more strongly from the emulation of characterthan the emulation of the actions. While actions lead to characterthrough habits and behavior, the learning effect of emulatingcharacter is more superior.

Aresearch done to establish the effect of violence in the media onchildren suggests a varied results and conclusions about therelationship between the viewed violence and the real hostility. Aresearch done by EdwardThomas and Richard Walters indicated that a there was a difference inperception when people were exposed to extreme violence than whenthey were exposed to less violence (Signorielli, 2005). The tworesearchers used different samples of subjects who saw violentfights. Those who saw knife-fights scene in a constructive film had astronger shock compared to those who did not see (Signorielli, 2005).They observed that those who saw the fight had a stronger effectafter watching the violent scenes than before they saw the films(Signorielli, 2005).

Aresearch done by RobertHancox, Helena McAnally and Robert Hancox Lindsay Robertson, showedthat there was a direct relationship between the exposure to mediaviolence and the adoption of antisocial behavior among the children(Lindsay,2013).The three researchers noted that watching violent content ontelevision excessively by children and the adolescent led to thedevelopment of behaviors that were not regarded social in thesociety. By excessive exposure, the researchers meant children whospend more than two hours per day watching violent content ontelevision (Lindsay,2013).However, the research was not conclusive of the causes of thedevelopment of the antisocial behavior. The inconclusive aspect ofthe research concurs with several other studies that have been doneto establish the relationship between media violence and the violentbehavior in the society (Lindsay,2013).However, this can be explained by the theories of desensitization andstimulation, as they suggest the implication of exposure to mediaviolence in the practice of real violence.

Ateam of researchers led by Rowell Huesmann, Leonard Eron carried anextensive study on the relationship between viewing media violenceand real violence in children (Huesmann et al, 2003). The researchrevealed children who spent many hours watching violent programs inthe television showed higher levels of aggressiveness (Huesmann etal, 2003). The children they studied in the research were in theirelementary school age, and they revealed that the violent behaviorthey acquired persisted to their teenage time. Their study of thechildren further revealed that children who watched more violent TVprograms were more likely to be arrested with criminal acts in theiradulthood (Huesmann et al, 2003). While many studies of therelationship have found more correlation, they have been inconclusiveabout the exact cause. However, the general consensus of the studiesis that media violence has a significant influence on the behaviorand perspectives of the viewers.

MeanWorld Syndrome

Themean world syndrome is the phenomenon that is described by thetendency of people believing that the world is more dangerous than itis actually is a view that is influenced by watching violent contenton the media. According to the George Gerbner, the pioneer of thisconcept, the media have violent-related content that changes theviews of the viewers (Gentile,2003). The viewers change to believe that it the world is moredangerous compared to the way it actually is. Therefore, they tend toadopt violent conduct out of this perception that everybody is asviolent as they are made to believe in the media. This way, the mediacreate a mean world that is full of mean people.

Oneof the ways that the mean world syndrome creates mean people is byinstilling a belief that other people are also mean. As part of thedangerous world, the viewer believes that everybody is as violent andmean as he sees on the violent-related media (Gentile,2003). The syndrome changes the thinking of a person to that of adangerous world that is created in the media. Therefore, a persontends to take measures of being mean and violent other than wait andbe a victim. Therefore, the world becomes dominated by people who aremean and want it all to their selves, as a way of being defensivefrom a dangerous world.

Anotherway that the mean world syndrome creates mean people is by changingtheir attitudes through a creation of opinions and images of adifferent world than the real one. According to Gentile(2003), these attitudes and opinions tend to be mean in naturebecause they portray the world in a negative way, than it really is.The media introduce these attitudes and opinions that the viewersapply to perceive the real world differently from the way it is. Whenperceiving the world, they will tend to refer to these opinions andimages that only exist in the media. Therefore, the viewers becomemean and influence others with the same problem.

Theconsequences of the belief that the world is mean results to fearamong the people. As a result, the consequence is the adoption ofcounterproductive behavior of people protecting themselves from thedangerous world. According to George Garbner, the syndrome creates afeeling that the world is unforgiving and intimidating made people tobe violent and intimidating too (Gentile,2003). They tend to behave in the way that the syndrome suggests theworld is. As a result of the belief, the world gets violent as everyperson seeks to fulfill the need for protection created by the fearof the dangerous world.

MediaViolence affects the behavior of people

Theviolent content in the media has significant social effects on thepeople in the society. This is because of the understanding thatpeople tend to emulate what is in the media and the application ofthe views and ideologies that violent-related content on the media(Huesmann et al, 2003). Informed of the research and theunderstanding of the nature of media violence, it is rational to notethat there is a relationship between viewing violence and realviolence. The theories explain the relationship in a rational mannerthat understands the circumstances and the content of the media thataffects the behavior of people in the society.

Mediaviolence affects the behavior of people negatively by portraying aviolent world and a different perception of the real world. AccordingtoBoxeret al (2009), people who spend more time on the television or anyother media that contains violent content have higher chances ofadopting violent behavior. This is because they perceive violence asa normal way of doing things, and as an acceptable option in theworld (Krcmar&amp Kathryn, 2000).While these people may have different perspectives of perceptions,the influence of the media is too strong that they think it is partof the normal world. The development of certain characters in thesociety can be attributed to the exposure of people to violentcontent in the media.

Theimpact of media violence is significant in the society because of thedevelopments in the society today that makes violence the core partof the content in the mainstream media. According toHuesmann et al (2003), mostof the content in the media is violent and depicts the use ofviolence as an option in solving conflicts. Therefore, the exposureto such content makes people feel as if the world is a violent world,even when it is not. The impact of media violence in the society iseven more extensive when it comes to the effect it has on thechildren. Children are affected more, because they tend to embracethe character and the opinion of the media more than adults.


Violencein the media affects the society by influencing the behavior thatpeople embrace and adopt as a result of watching the contents of themedia. However, the impact of the media is debated where people takedifferent opinions on the influence violence in the media has on thebehavior of people. While some assert the relationship betweenviolence on media and real behavior, believe it does not affect humanbehavior. However, the theories discussed and the studies done in thepast indicate that the violence in the media has significant effectson the society and behavior of people.


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