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What Is To Blame For Youth Violence?: The Media, Guns, Parenting, Poverty, Bad Programs, Or &Brvbar;

1505 words - 6 pages

The first-ever Surgeon General's report on youthviolence was recently released by Dr. David Satcher, aClinton appointee who still holds his position in theBush Administration. The report hardly made a ripplein the public debate, but what caught my attention wasthe press reports regarding what wasn't in the report,rather than what was.In a press conference when the report wasreleased, Dr. Satcher was asked about media violence,and he responded that the media is not a majorinfluence on youth violence. As someone who has readdozens of studies and reports about the impact ofmedia violence on children and society, I wassurprised to hear this. It sounded eerily like arecent report on ABC's 20/20 claiming that mediaviolence does not cause violence and may actually begood for kids.But what about the voluminous stack of researchreports on the impact of media violence on youth? Whena TV news magazine claims that TV violence is notdangerous, I don't take it too seriously, but theSurgeon General's report was a different matter. Moreimportantly, I wondered how parents and others wouldrespond to the "news." This article takes a carefullook at the new report, the 20/20 story, and theresearch on media violence, and tries to figure outwhat is going on.On ABC, Jonathan Freedman, a psychology professorat Toronto University who happens to receive fundingfrom the Motion Picture Association of America,claimed that research does not support the notion thatmedia violence causes aggression. He trashes reportsby the American Psychological Association, theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics, and others that claimthat more than 1,000 studies prove the case againstmedia violence, saying: "There aren't over a thousandstudies. There are about 200 studies, give or take afew, depending on which ones you count."Isn't 200 enough?I would have thought so, but perhaps I am biasedbecause I co-authored some of them (many years ago)myself. But, the bottom line is that the mostimportant issue is not the exact number of studies,but rather their quality.There are dozens of well-designed studies thatshow that TV, movies and other media affect whatviewers believe and how they behave. This is true ofmany different kinds of attitudes and behaviors â "positive and negative â " but many studies conclusivelyshow a statistical link between watching violentprograms and behaving aggressively. And, of course,billions of dollars have been spent on mediaadvertising because it is well established that evenbrief messages can be powerful in shaping behavior.However, there are very few studies of whetherexposure to media violence causes criminal behavior.The seminal study of media violence and criminalbehavior (rather than aggressive behavior) is byLeonard Eron, Ph.D. and Rowell Huesmann, Ph.D. In1960, Eron began studying aggression and the TVviewing habits of 875 third-graders in upstate NewYork. They kept tracking some of those children untilthey were 30 years old. They concluded that...

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