Violent images sometimes seem to be everywhere–in movies, on television and in video games. Some types of popular music feature lyrics that depict or glorify violent situations. Exposure to violence, whether it is real or simulated, can have a negative effect on teenagers. Over the years, numerous studies, such as one done by psychologists at Iowa State University in 2003, have shown a connection between teenagers being exposed to violent media and displaying violent behavior themselves.
The average child in America will see up to 200,000 violent images in the media by the time he turns 18, according to Kids Health. Constant exposure to violence, whether it is tales of real life violence on the news or fictitious film or television violence, makes a teenager desensitized to the realities and consequences of violence. According to a 2002 study conducted by J.G. Johnson and published in “Science” magazine, the more media a teenager consumes, the more likely he is to commit acts of violence and aggression.
According to Johnson’s study, the percentage of teenagers who had committed some sort of violent act rose, based on the amount of television they watched. For instance, according to the study, teenagers who watched less than one hour of television a day were the least likely to have done something violent while 25 percent of teenagers who watched the most amount of television each day, or more than three hours daily, had committed some act of violence.
Media violence comes in many forms. It is prevalent on television, in both prime time programing and during Saturday morning cartoons. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, violence on television occurs most often during programming, such as cartoons, that is targeted to children. Children’s programs often feature up to 25 violent acts each hour, according to the AAFP. Violence also appears in video games, particularly those rated M (mature) or T (teen).
Constant exposure to violence in the media can confuse teenagers and children. Many times, violent acts on television and in film are done by the characters that teenagers are supposed to view as the “good guys,” according to Kids Health. Watching the good guys commit acts of violence can skew a teenager’s sense of right and wrong, especially if the good characters are praised in the programming for their violent acts and do not receive punishment.
Fear and Worry
In addition to creating copycat behavior, watching violent media can make a teenager fearful of the world around him. According to the AAFP, 10 percent of teenagers saw counselors because of anxiety and nightmares experienced after viewing violent media. The best way to calm a teenager’s fears is to talk with him. You may also want to limit the amount of television he watches as well as monitor the video games he plays and the music he listens to.