Violence in the media: What can be done about it?
Australian children are regularly exposed to violence (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
- In July 2000, six major US medical groups (the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Psychiatric Association issued a Joint Statement on the impact of entertainment violence on children.
- In March 2013, the Australian Psychological Society, Media Representations and Responsibilities: Psychological Perspectives.
- In April 2013, United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, General comment No. 17 (2013) on the right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts.
- In April 2014, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues published a Research Summary on Media Violence, authors Craig A. Anderson, Brad J. Bushman, Edward Donnerstein, Tom. A. Hummer, & Wayne Warburton.
- In August 2015, American Psychological Association finds violent video game play is linked to increased aggression in players.
- In July 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media issued a policy statement on Virtual Violence.
- In Feb 2017, the American Psychological Association published its Taskforce review of research on the impacts of violent video games.
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:
CMA 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 this may not emerge until later in life.
As a result they can:
- 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’. (‘Glamorised violence’ is used by violent heroes, and is depicted as justified, and is applauded and rewarded. It may have few real consequences, and may be in a comic context).
- 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 example, talk to children about what would happen if they did those violent things at home.
- Choose films, programs and games with themes other than violence.
What legislators and regulators could do
- The Minister for Communications (who is responsible for broadcast media, has oversight of the National Classification Scheme for Films, games and publications). As at 2022 this is Michelle Rowland. The NCS needs to be changed to be evidence-and age-based.
- The Australian Communications and Media Authority oversees the resolution of complaints about content on TV, and also approves Codes of Practice for the industry.
- 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 the 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 and cinema films in family programs which children are likely to watch.
- Program violent TV content late at night.
- Stop marketing M classified programs and movies to children to children.