Australian Council on Children and the Media

Violence in the media: What can be done about it?

Australian children are regularly exposed to violence (and much of it glamorised) on TV, in films and DVDs, and in games and apps.  

The impacts of such exposure on the young, have been the topic of many ongoing reports by health and welfare organisations internationally.

PROFESSIONAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL BODIES ARE CONCERNED

These include:

THE RESEARCH DEBATES

Some researchers dispute that media violence has a detrimental impact on the young, with some (mostly same) critics finding fault with each new study.

However, there are now over 200 original research studies and many more research reviews which combine to give a reliable picture of the likely impact of violent media on children.

Important research reviews can be found at:

  • Anderson, Craig A (2010) Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin Vol. 136 (2) 151–173. 

  • Gentile, D et al (2003) Looking Through Time: A Longitudinal Study of Children's Media Violence Consumption at Home and Aggressive Behaviors at School

  • Huesmann, L. Rowell; (2007) The Impact of Electronic Media Violence: Scientific Theory and Research Journal of Adolescent health December 2007 Volume 41, Issue 6, Supplement, Pages S6–S13

  • Krahe, Barbara and Moller, Ingrid et al (2011) Desensitization to Media Violence: Links With Habitual Media Violence Exposure, Aggressive Cognitions, and Aggressive Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol. 100, No. 4, 630–646

  •  ISRA review

ACCM has summarised much of this research in our Fact Sheet Effects of media violence on children

BRIEF SUMMARY OF RISKS

In summary, the research shows us that a diet of media violence can increase the risks that children will develop a particular mental script for the way to deal with conflict and that his may not emerge until later in life.

As a result they will:

  • be more likely to choose to use violence to solve conflict
  • be desensitised to use of violence by others (more callous)
  • develop a  view of the world as mean and scary

This poses a serious mental health risk for society.  


WHAT CAN HELP/IMPROVE THE SITUATION

Media violence is but one contributor to the use of violence in society, but it is one that we can do something about.   

What parents can do:

  • Minimise exposure to programs /products which feature 'glamorised violence".
  • Use the classification system to avoid programs/ products classified  "M" or "MA15+ or "R18+".  These are all recommended only for persons over the age of 15 years.
  • Minimise exposure to "news" programs for children under 11 or 12. These children are unlikely to understand that "it isn't likely to happen to you" as they don't understand probability.
  • Look for programs classified "C" or "P" on commercial TV, or sample the many non- violent programs on ABC kids.
  • Be a media educator: express your views, and discuss program content for eg,  talk to children about what would happen if they did those violent things at  home
  • Buy or borrow DVDs and games with themes other than violence

What legislators and regulators could do

The present Government personnel with responsibilities in these areas are  

  • The Minister for Communications (who is responsible for broadcast media and has oversight of the National Classification Scheme for Films, games and publications). As at 2017 this is Mitch Fifield (LNP)
  • The Australian Communications and Media Authority oversees the resolution of complaints about content on TV, and also approves Codes of Practice for the industry.

They should:

  • Uphold the rights of the child to be protected from material that can harm (CROC Art 17) by implementing systems that do this effectively
  • Ensure that classification systems are based on a body of reliable research on the impacts of media violence on children, and on core child development knowledge and theory
  • Provide parents with more age-based categories in classification systems so that age-appropriateness can be more easily judged
  • Place the onus of protection on providers of violent material, not on parents 

What media industry can do  

  • Reduce reliance on glamorised and gratuitous violence as a way of attracting audiences
  • Find creative people who can write attractive and compelling stories that offer alternatives to the use of violence to solve conflict
  • Reduce the promotion of M and MA15+ TV programs at peak times when children are viewing
  • Program violent TV content late at night
  • Stop marketing to children  those products that are linked to violent mature age films, TV and games.