Media and Teen Violence

Whether or not media and teen violence are related is a long debated issue. This article looks at different types of media and how each affects children including TV, the Internet, music, and video games. Get statistics on media and teen violence here.

Teen violence erupts in a number of ways. It can be directed at inanimate objects, at other people, at animals, or at the teen him- or herself. People suspect that media - whether news reports, songs, or movies - that teens view or listen to, as well as interactive media, such as video games, that teens participate in may contribute to teen violence. Let's see how media and teen violence are related.

Various types of media are positive and have been used to send anti-violence messages to teens. Public service announcements, song lyrics urging respect, and videogames in which it pays to have a conscience all contribute to an attempt to surround teens with valuable and positive models. In early 2010, the state of Utah held a media contest for the state’s “Dating Violence Awareness Week.” Contestants were invited to submit media in the areas of Visual Arts, YouTube videos, and Written Works to raise awareness of the seriousness of dating violence.

This article looks at some of the research that compares the possible relationships between media and teen violence of various kinds.

Lyric Media and Teen Violence

The first study we’ll look at, reported in 2003, sought to analyze the effects that songs with violent lyrics had on aggression in both feelings and thoughts. In order to rule out the effects of the music itself and the performer as factors, the violent songs were paired with nonviolent songs by the same artist and with a similar musical style. In addition, humorous and non-humorous examples were used. The study found that hearing violent lyrics made aggressive thought and affect more accessible to the listener, which could bias interpretations of ongoing activities as more hostile than they would seem to be without the reinforcement of violent themes by the lyrics. This suggests that such lyrics are likely to escalate violence rather than serve as catharsis. However, the effects seem to be of short duration, and listening to a non-violent song following a violent one may dissipate the effects of this type of media and teen violence. In addition, the researchers note that while the lyrics may be violent, they may also be unintelligible, diminishing their effect.

Television Media and Teen Violence

A study reported in 2001 found a connection between dating violence and carrying a gun on the one hand and watching pro wrestling shows on the other. The researcher pointed out that not only do the wrestlers fight each other, but the women are involved in the fights. The study found propensities for date violence in both teen boys and teen girls, but the researcher reportedly admitted that other influences were not sufficiently taken into account.

Website Media and Teen Violence

A study reported in 2008 found that teens and preteens aged 10 - 15 who were frequent visitors to websites that included depictions of violence by real people were five times more likely to report that they themselves had engaged in violent behavior than were young people of the same age who did not visit such websites.

Multiple media and Teen Violence

In a 2009 study that looked at teen’s favorite television shows, movies, and video games since they were seven years old, it was found that the total exposure to violence calculated from this data correlated to a higher risk of general aggression and violent behavior as teens. In this study, data on other factors was considered.

Video Game Media and Teen Violence

Another 2008 study found that teens from a culture characterized as low violence (Japan) and a culture characterized as high violence (US) were more aggressive if the chronically played violent video games than if they didn’t. The Japanese students in the study (12 to18) were older than the US students (9 to 12). The researchers claimed that an increase in acted out physical aggression occurred 3 to 6 months after the students played the violent games. The use of students from countries with different attitudes towards violence was an attempt to rule out the possibility that students who are more aggressive naturally would be the ones to prefer violent video games.

A study published in 2010 may perhaps deserve more weight because it is recent and is able to take past studies into account. The author shows that the claims about links between violence being linked to video games are hard to fathom given increasing playing time and decreasing violence by teens. This study points out methodological and theoretical problems with preceding research on video game violence, and asks what the positive effects of violent videogames might be. Conclusions include a positive increase in visuospatial cognition and social involvement, and the fact that one game in particular has had positive educational effects in cancer patients. There are also suggestions linking mildly violent games to higher-order thinking skills and involvement in World of Warcraft with increased reading and writing achievement in boys for whom these are not areas of strength.


“Exposure to Violent Media: The Effects of Songs With Violent Lyrics on Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings” -
Blazing Angels or Resident Evil? Can Violent Video Games Be a Force for Good? -

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