Report shows 'unequivocal evidence' that media violence has significant negative impact on children

March 25, 2004

Research report provides 'A scientific assessment of research on the influence of violent television and films, video games, and music "reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior" in children and youth, according to a report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the American Psychological Society.

The report reviews the large body of research that has investigated the ways in which violent media influence behavior. Across all media genres, the authors found that the research consistently shows that even short-term exposure "increases the likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions."

The authors of the report, "The Influence of Media Violence on Youth," are Craig A. Anderson, Iowa State University; Leonard Berkowitz, University of Wisconsin; Edward Donnerstein, University of Arizona; L. Rowell Huesmann, University of Michigan; James D. Johnson, University of North Carolina-Wilmington; Daniel Linz, University of California, Santa Barbara; Neil M. Malamuth, University of California, Los Angeles; and Ellen Wartella, University of Texas at Austin.

In the short-term, media violence can increase aggression by priming aggressive thoughts and decision processes, increasing physiological arousal, and triggering a tendency to imitate observed behaviors. In the long-term, repeated exposure can produce lasting increases in aggressive thought patterns and aggression-supporting beliefs about social behavior, and can reduce individuals' normal negative emotional responses to violence.

The pervasive nature of violent media in society makes it difficult to minimize children's exposure. Even with parental supervision, interpretation, and control of children's media use, the available research suggests "no one is wholly immune to the effects of media violence."

"Meeting the larger societal challenge of providing children and youth with a much healthier media diet may prove more difficult and costly," the authors wrote, "especially if the scientific, news, public policy, and entertainment communities fail to educate the general public about the real risks of media-violence exposure to children and youth."
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For more information, contact Craig Anderson at caa@iastate.edu.

This report is part of a continuing series of reviews by preeminent researchers who examine psychological science findings on topics of general public interest. Psychological Science in the Public Interest is a journal of the American Psychological Society. APS's mission focuses on the advancement of research and science-based psychology in the public interest.

Association for Psychological Science

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