Does Media Cause Violence?

  • Finley Heinzen ’23

Recently, more and more people have said that the media we consume causes violence. Even President Trump tweeted, “Video game violence & glorification must be stopped—it is creating monsters!” Because of the increase in shootings and hate crimes around the world, it brings up the question: Is this belief about our media even true?

This question was brought up by researchers as far back as the early 1960s. Three researchers, Albert Bandura, Dorthea Ross, and Sheila A. Ross, showed kids videos of adults playing with a doll. The kids who were shown adults aggressively playing with the dolls were more aggressive when it was their turn to play with the doll. More recently in 2017, researchers Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman showed one group of kids scenes from movies with guns and another group the same scene but with the guns edited out. Afterward, they were sent into a room to play and inside the room, there was a cabinet with a real gun (disarmed of course). Out of the 58% of the kids who found the gun and didn’t tell an adult, the researchers found that the kids who watched the movie with the guns were more likely to pull the trigger.

This research shows how media can cause kids to be more aggressive, but it still doesn’t prove that media can cause kids to carry out violent acts. In recent years, the youth violence rate has gone down according to our government, while the amount of violent video games sold has gone up. This shows that video games, a source of media that many people associate with violent acts, do not cause youth to commit acts of violence. Another claim is that there is a consensus within the scholarly community that violent media will cause violence. This is another false claim. A real consensus would entail close to 100% of scholars to agree, but only 58% of scholars believe that there is a causal connection between media and violence, and only 35% believe that it is a major factor of violence. One final argument is that there are many people who claim that different forms of media are the reason they committed violent acts. Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian terrorist, claims that video games were a major motive to his attacks and that the games helped him “train.”

Even some of the media we consume in school has had cases where violence emerges. For example, Mark David Chapman, the killer of John Lennon, is said to have had delusions based off of the character Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, one of the books freshmen at SHP read. Chapman used the major motif of phoniness in the book as a reason to kill John Lennon since Chapman believed that Lennon’s atheism was phony. Even this last argument can easily be disproven. No killer is just going to kill because of the media they consume. If you see these people and have tunnel vision, mental health and relationships with others can easily be overlooked.

Psychologist and Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University, Craig Anderson, says, “Media violence is only one of many risk factors for later aggressive and violent behavior. Furthermore, extremely violent behavior never occurs when there is only one risk factor present.” This means that consuming violent media is not going to turn you into a violent person. Violent media is unavoidable in today’s world, but this is not a problem since it’s not the reason that we see violence around us. We need to keep in mind that while violent media isn’t the only reason violence arises in people, but we do need to be aware that it can lead to violence in the right circumstances.

By Axel de Vernou

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