There is no question that violence in the media affects the brain. A study provided by the Indiana University School of Medicine demonstrates that violence alters the brain. Specifically one week of playing violent video games produced “visible alterations in MRI brain scans” among young men (Archer, 2013, para 1). The prefrontal area of the brain is responsible for thought and is part of the emotional or limbic part of the brain. Violence in the media has expanded beyond traditional venues of television, magazine and print journals, however. Now, social media has become an extension of everyday life, and the violence associated with social media is worsening. In an article published by Wired, reporters suggested that Chicago rappers uploaded videos to YouTube that landed a deal with Interscope Records (Austen, 2013).
The album in question refers to a gang; the song specifically maligned enemy gang members, referring to gang members in very violent language, suggesting that gang members would be hunt down.The song suggested that members of the enemy gang would be shot, including the Chief of the gang, capturing the attention of millions of YouTube members at the time; the video itself featured firearms pointing at the camera (Austen, 2013). Could watching videos like this, apart from inspiring violence and strong emotion, and possibly changing the structure of the brain including the thinking center, also inspire immediate gang wars and increasing violence? It’s quite possible.
Many suggest that this video touched off an online or social media war between enemy rappers, with many people in Chicago followed along vigorously (Austen, 2013). Could it also have touched off a war between gang members? It is important to understand how influential media is on society, and the individuals that attend to its content.
Eugene Beresin, M.D., working with the American Academy of Child and Adolescents Psychiatry (2013), suggests that while violence is nothing new in society, as access improves to firearms the scope of violent actions has greater and more serious consequences. This is most easily evidenced through school shootings and the trend toward increasing youth homicides (AACAP, 2013). Other trends that have increased, possibly as a result of exposure to increasing media violence, include increasing rates of domestic violence, community violence, substance abuse and psychiatric disorders within the community (AACAP, 2013). As violence increases within the media, violence becomes something that is accepted as a communal norm, rather than something that is considered abnormal or an exception to the rule (AACAP, 2013). It is important that physicians, healthcare providers, social service agencies, schools and other parties, including families talk with children and other influencers to discuss violence in the media. These collaborators must review what is and is not considered normal, and work to reduce exposure to media violence whenever appropriate. This may help minimize the threat and impact that media violence can have on at-risk populations.
Much research has been conducted on the relationship that exists between “televised violence” and violent behavior occurring among youth (AACAP, 2013). Cross-sectional and quantitative studies confirm a positive correlation between exposure to media violence and increased violence among youth (AACAP, 2013). The introduction of televisions in American households has increased steadily during since the 1950s; since that time violence has also steadily increased, particularly among children, half of whom have a television in their bedroom, and watch television without supervision (AACAP, 2013). Even more alarming in present society is the number of children that login to the internet daily without supervision. Many children now access popular social media sites without supervision. These websites include YouTube, where videos including rapper videos with violent lyrics and images can easily be accessed. According to statistics children will view “more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders prior to age 18” (AACAP, 2013). Television allows children access to more than 812 violent actions each hour, in the form of children’s programming, not adult programming, including via cartoons (AACAP, 2013). This alone should cause alarm among parents and educators, politicians and social service agencies.
The media contributes even more violent actions, in the way of advertisements, journals, magazine advertisements, bulletin boards, social media and music (Archer, 2013; Austen, 2013). Combatting violence requires proactive action. This allows one to become more aware of how prevalent violence is in the media, and to take an active stance against it. In this way, communities may help lobby against violence, or at the very least limit their family’s exposure to violence in the media. While it may not be possible to halt violent images, individuals and even organizations do have a choice to limit exposure to violence through censoring and parental controls.
Violence in the media is an everyday fact of life. There is no question that violence in the media affects individuals from a very early ages. Since the advent of the television studies suggest that violence has been increasing not only among adults but among youths, as evidenced by increasing school violence, gang violence, and acts of self-violence among youths (AACAP, 2013). Studies suggest that exposure to various forms of violence, including video game violence, can result in diagnosable changes in portions of the brain (Archer, 2013). Technology is facilitating violence in the media, through social media networks including YouTube, blogging and other unique tools that make violent communications easier and faster, more popular and novel than ever (Austen, 2013). For this reason parents, educators, community members and citizens have a personal and communal obligation to monitor violence and make the choice to limit exposure to violence in order to limit the effects that violence can have on youths and adults alike, in order to change the effects that violence in the media has on the community, and individuals, as it is unlikely that the individuals responsible for violent images will change; at least, not the corporations producing such images.
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2013). The Impact of Media Violence
on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions. AACAP. Retrieved from: https://www.aacap.org/
- Archer, D. (2013). Violence, the Media and Your Brain. Psychology Today. Retrieved from:
- Austen, B. (2013). Public Enemies: Social Media is Fueling Gang Wars in Chicago. Wired.
Retrieved from: http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/09/gangs-of-social-media/