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  Does Violent Media Cause Violence, Or Doesn’t It?  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
A coalition of Canadian parents and educators from the public and Catholic school systems issued a press release today entitled "Media Violence - Not a Pretty Picture," wherein it is suggested that kids and teens are influenced negatively by "violent music videos, video games, music lyrics, the Internet, and television programs..." Now, I happen to believe that some kids and teens are negatively influenced by some forms of violent media under certain conditions. I believe that in some cases, it's possible that exposure to violent media can cause violence. This being said, I'm thoroughly confused by this unnamed coalition's stance on the issue.

According to the coalition, the Internet itself is a destructive influence. That pretty much blows the group's credibility in my view, but unfortunately for you, I'm not done analyzing the press release yet. The group also identifies "music lyrics" as a destructive influence. I'd love to know why "poetry" in general wasn't listed. I suppose as soon as you put poetry to music it becomes a deadly weapon.

Dr. Peter Jaffe, a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario, is quoted in the coalition's press release as saying "There is no question that parents and professionals who work with children and adolescents are gravely concerned about the potential harmful effects of media violence." In a CityNews report on the coalition's press release, Dr. Jaffe says the effects of entertainment violence on children "are measurable and long lasting."

I'm confused. What are we measuring here? Actual harm? Potential for harm? If so, what's the scale? That's a serious question. Most of my professional work involves creating interactive experiences for the youth market. I'd like to know, practically speaking, how I can apply some sort of "violence scale" to my work--I'd hate to be hurting kids through my work. So if "hurt" can be measured, let's have a scientifically-proven "hurt rating" of some kind that we designers can use ethically.

The coalition's press release complains about media violence but doesn't provide any evidence that media violence is harmful to kids, and doesn't give any examples of what kids might do when exposed to violent media. Most importantly, it doesn't state outright that violence in the media causes children and adolescents to act violently. That is highly curious to me, given Dr. Jaffe's statement about measurement. I intend to ask him personally about this, provided I can cut through the red tape and get a few minutes of his time.
 
     
 
   
 
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  3 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by Ryan Anderson
January 18, 2007 @ 12:20 am
     
 
I really thought that we would be beyond the silver bullet model of media effects by now. There is something to be said for a prevailing culture of violence that is proliferated through the media having an effect on a child's worldview, but even in all the violence, most mentally healthy people can discern between right and wrong, regardless of what Diddy says.

As for calling an entire medium "destructive," you only have to look back to MacLuhan for the most apt take on "good" and "bad" media. Saying that a medium is inherently evil is like saying an apple pie is evil. Like an apple pie, the internet has no properties of good or bad. It's neutral until acted upon by humans.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jeremy
January 18, 2007 @ 12:34 am
     
 
Apple pie IS evil. It is loaded with trans fats remember?
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
January 18, 2007 @ 12:03 pm
     
 
I managed to find Dr. Jaffe's email address and sent him a request for information. Hopefully he'll reply, and give me permission to publish his comments.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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