The paper focuses on How Media Aggression Affects Traits as it corrupts the minds of children and young adults

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How Media Aggression Affects Traits


There has been a justifiable concern with the high rate of aggression in the media. This aggression can be seen in films, television, video games and the internet. This trend is without its negative effects as it corrupts the minds of children and young adults. This paper illustrates how media aggression has a negative effect on traits by exploring how it affects the life of young viewers according to different research. Some media content casts aggressive and violent attitude in a positive light, rewards and justifies crime as well as creates attractive criminal heroes. Younger children are mostly affected by these portrayals as their minds are easily influenced.  Consequently, it has a drastic implication in their lives as well as in the society which includes creating character traits rife with verbal and physical aggression, leads to extreme violent actions and possible criminal tendencies in the future.

How Media Aggression Affects Traits

A higher percentage of television series and movies in America with high ratings are all filled with aggression. The most popular video games are also tainted with violence. The internet is not left out in this orgy of media violence. The constant exposure to violent content in the media can have a lot of negative effects especially on children and young adults of impressionable age.  Some of these youths already have a high violent trait therefore, they always seek out such content which further increases their juvenile delinquent tendencies. Anderson, Leonard, Berkowitz, Donnerstein,  Huesmann, Johnson,  Linz, Malamuth,  Wartella (2003)  have noted that most researchers in the field of the effects of media violence arrived at a consensus that “the effect of media violence on aggressive and violent behavior was real, causal, and significant”(82).The media by eulogizing aggressive behavior, rewarding and justifying aggression, and deifying the criminal hero affects character traits which leads to aggressive behaviors, extremely violent attitudes and creates possible criminal tendencies. 

Media aggression leads to aggressive behaviors both physical and verbal aggression especially in younger children. Children at that age learn by imitation. This is why children from homes where there is domestic violence tend to display such attitude outside their homes because they are still in the developmental stage of life and the information they consume at that time can make or mar them.  They emulate what takes place in their environment. For instance, the constant exposure to media content where the actors verbally abuse one another with the f -word would influence them and they would pick such words to use on others. Gentile, Saleem and Anderson (2007) have also agreed on this notion as they noted that “children readily imitate aggressive behaviors they see others perform, either live or from televised images.” (p.21). Some of these content in the media portray aggression as stylish where the person with the terrible attitude is painted in some TV shows as the “cool one”.  The portrayal of abuse in movies or cartoons which they watch can also make them to either resort to physical or verbal abuse in conflict resolution that will cause harm to others. Porter and Starcevic (2007) have stated the findings of a study involving 607 adolescents where the ones that spent much time playing violent video games were associated with trait hostility, arguments with teachers and physical fights. They further added that there has been a significant increase in physical fights among children who play violent video games.

Furthermore, most media content push their viewers especially children into full blown extreme violent behaviors. By rewarding and justifying aggressive behavior, these young minds will develop the mentality that aggression has some good sides to it especially when they already have a high aggressive trait. Slater, Henry,  Swaim and Anderson(2003) pointed out that “theory and research on media violence provides evidence that aggressive youth seek out media violence and that media violence prospectively predicts aggression in youth”(p.1). Some of the video games and television these children are exposed to daily are violent especially the ones that involve shootings and fist fights and they might be tempted to act it out in reality. In some of the violent video games, they are no longer the audience, they participate in the violence themselves and it has a fun experience as they are rewarded with points. Gentile et al., (2007) have seen this relation as they pointed out that:

Aggressive act followed by a lack of consequences, or even a reward, is more likely to enhance future aggression than an aggressive act followed by a punishment. Most violent media do not show violent acts followed by their appropriate consequences. Instead, most violent acts go unpunished, or even rewarded. Only 19% of aggressive actors were punished or their aggressive actions in an extensive study of 2,500 hours of U.S. television programs.  Violent video games often provide rewards for practicing aggressive actions in the game. Most violent video games give their characters points, money, status, and higher performance levels for their aggressive actions, and indeed often require the player to play aggressively to advance in the game (p.34 )

These rewards will further make them think violence has some gains to it in the real world. Porter and Starcevic (2007) reported that the 1993 game ‘Doom’ was played by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold before they went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School in 1999. This led to the death of many fellow students and one teacher. The two killers had earlier mentioned the game in a video they made before the massacre by stating that there “operation” would be “just like Doom.”  It is also worthy of note to mention the influence of watching the movie “Matrix” on the teen Joshua Cooke who is currently serving a jail time for the murder of his parents. He was also reported to have said that if he had an assault weapon, he would have gone ahead to murder other people (Daily Mail Reporter,2013). Furthermore, there is no punishment for the outlaws in the storylines of some television shows these days, rather they find a way to outsmart the system. Equally, the media justifies violence and crime. For instance, they create storylines that justify the reason why some characters take laws into their own hands and go on a killing spree of their supposed enemies instead of going to the relevant authorities. Gentile et al., (2007) have noted that “aggression is often employed in television, films, and video games in the pursuit of an allegedly good cause, as in a deserved punishment for the bad guys” (p.35).

Again, justifying bad behavior obscures the sense of right and wrong in people especially on these young minds. Some of them might start assuming that bad behavior and aggression is a way out of a situation so far it's for a good cause. Hence, the end, justifying the means will become their creed. They might end up harming their bully just to protect themselves instead of reporting to relevant authorities or they might choose to toe the line of Robin hood by robbing Peter to pay Paul thinking they are helping the poor in the society.

In addition, development of criminal tendencies can also be a long term effect of media aggression on the viewers especially when there is a frequent exposure to such content. Media content these days deify the criminal who is usually a drug dealer or an organized criminal which can cause the viewers especially the youths to develop possible criminal tendencies. The attractiveness given to violent characters and outlaws by the media has made it seem like aggression is worthy of emulation.  The character of the criminal hero is made attractive causing a lot of these viewers to identify with them.  Most heroes in recent television series lack the morality to be true heroes, they achieve heroic feats through violence and in the wrong way. They also have a way of beating the system and are not punished for their excesses. A lot of our children and youths are exposed to this portrayal which makes them think being a “bad guy” pays. Younger children are likely to grow up with this mentality. Some analyses have also shown that “frequent exposure to TV violence during childhood resulted in high levels of aggressive behavior later.” (Gentile et al., 2007, p.27).  Anderson et.al.(2003) have also seen this relation as they asserted that:

Recent large-scale longitudinal studies provide converging evidence linking frequent exposure to violent media in childhood with aggression later in life, including physical assaults and spouse abuse. Because extremely violent criminal behaviors (e.g., forcible rape, aggravated assault, homicide) are rare, new longitudinal studies with larger samples are needed to estimate accurately how much habitual childhood exposure to media violence increases the risk for extreme violence (p.81).

Violence in the media has become a source of worry in the society. The negative effects of exposure to media aggression on viewers especially children and young adults cannot be overemphasized. Media aggression is rearing its ugly head in the society in more ways than one. It can lead to an increase in verbal and physical aggression, violent attitudes and a tendency to criminality. To nip this trend in the bud, parents should play a big part in controlling and regulating the type of content their children are exposed to both in video games, TV and on the internet.

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