The Effects Of Media Violence De Sensitization

Desensitization is simply the process that involves the undermining of feelings, such as empathy or sympathy as explained by psychological reactions to violence. Researchers on psychological reactions to media violence have been keen on the possibility that continual exposure to media violence in leads to desensitization. This implies that, exposure to media acts from the mass media is likely to undermine feelings of sympathy and empathy, or even concern that audiences might have toward victims of violence in real life. According to the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians among associations, media violence affects the behavior of children, their attitudes as well as their values. In the modern society, children have become increasingly desensitized to violence, notably in the past few years. This has been attributed to the fact that, by the time a child attains age 18, he or she will have watched 200,000 acts of violence-40,000 of which are acts of murder (Kaiser Family Foundation 23).

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Modern society must not brush of this problem which is seriously endangering future generations. The society that we are growing in has deliberately failed to protect its children from being desensitized to media violence. As never witnessed before, children are becoming less sensitive of the violent images that they are exposed to everyday through television, video games (Staude-Müller 43) or the Internet, together with what they listen to on the radio. Huston found out that, on average, a child aged between 8 and 18 spends more time on a computer; TV set and video game than they spent on any other activity, save for sleeping (Huston, 1992). Children are greatly influenced by the media, this occurs not only in their decisions and behaviors, but also in their actions. The sad thing is that, these over exposure to media has negative consequences in the society, especially on children and teens, the most serious of all is desensitization to violence. Children have not only come to terms with the fact that violence is a normal way of life and is an acceptable means of solving conflicts (since they learn by observing and imitating), but they are increasingly desiring to watch even more violent films and play even more bloody video game, in which the heroes are rewarded according to their body count.
In 2006 30th December, almost every eye (mature or immature) was glued on a computer screen watching Saddam Hussein’s execution Video, this is where his death was captured and posted worldwide for people to watch, both children and adults accessed the death of Saddam by the click of a button. It has not only made people less troubled to see a death body, but also it has aroused people’s appetite to watch dead bodies as they instantaneously try to search the internet for a story to tell their colleagues over lunch. Unfortunately, there are no restrictions when it comes to accessing the internet; anyone can post, publish and browse virtually anything on the internet. One can argue that there are websites that ask for your date of birth before granting access, but come on, people are not stupid, they know exactly what age makes them legal!
If one can remember anything about the Virginia Tech. Shooting in 2007, people were not troubled to see images of dead students. Instead, everyday people increasingly sought more information about the massacre, and the killer. Was it not enough just to watch it once? It wasn’t people’s appetite for violence had to be satiated! Some commentators are still casting their blame on something; violent videogames. They argue that the killings would have happened if the killer had avoided video game. Unfortunately, violent video games are just a fraction of the summed up reality that causes desensitization. It is more likely that violent video games were the cause of the Virginia Shootings in 2007 as well as the Columbia High School tragedy in 1999. In sense, what needs to be blamed for all this trouble is the media, it is the main cause of desensitization to violence.
In the everyday life people often come across images of dead bodies in films, TV series, violent video games, newspapers, and magazines. These are the actual reasons behind violent tragedies. The society has become exceedingly mediated, people are no longer troubled us to see a dead body on TV. Hollywood on its part has successfully overemphasized violence-more regularly we are much desensitized, it is like everyone has the silence to kill. When watching movies some will even feign excuses for the killer not the victims. When playing violent video games, one feels excited and glorified just to see blood splashed to walls and bodies fall on the ground by a short gun. In some of the movies like Machete, audiences literally jump up with excitement when the ‘bad guys’ are sliced and their intestines ripped out and blood is splashed all over the place. All this is to argue that video games are not the only thing to blame. In video games, people score points according to their body count, in the movies and on TV, viewers feel nothing when an actor is killed-they no longer see it is as a wrongdoing.  In fact in theaters, audiences sit and watch, and at times laugh. A movie such as the Hostel is considered horrendous and terrifying by many people, but the fans for such movies are teenagers. These teenagers are no longer disturbed by horror images, instead they look at as a something to be proud of to watch a movie of that kind. Think about a movie known as Saws, very bloody. Arguably, children and teens are not at all disgusted by such images; they make it a big discussion on what they could do to themselves on to others if they were in such a situation that needed survival. With movies such as Saws and Hostel among others, children and teens are not only desensitized, also but violence has become so common to them. Maybe one could imagine that the word violence means celebrity or hero to children.
Media violence de-sensitization is a necessary benefit for specific groups such as military and law enforcement, yet poses catastrophic threats to younger (immature) audience groups.
Literature review
In order to understand the impacts of recurrent exposure to violent images, researchers have suggested that viewers tend to become at ease with violence, which was at the beginning anxiety aggravating. Most of the early research on desensitization to media violence was conducted by scholars such as Margaret H. Thomas (506). Their studies involved exposing respondents to relatively mild forms of TV violence for moderately short periods of time. Their findings indicated that viewers that were exposed to large amounts of violent images exhibited less emotional reaction to violent movies clips as compared to viewers that were exposed to small amounts of media violence. In general, emotional arousal decreased with the increased watching of violent media images. They concluded that both children and adults are vulnerable to the effect.
Other researchers studied the reactions of adult men to movies that depicted violence against women, mostly on a sexual perspective (Linz 620). Adult men were exposed to the viewing of these films for a number of days. Comparing of “first-day” reactions and “last-day” reactions by adult men to violent films; indicated that, with continued exposure, first levels of anxiety decreased significantly. In addition, the participants’ sensitivity of the movies changed significantly from the start of the experiment to its last day. Content that was initially judged to be violent and repugnant to women was perceived to be increasingly less so at the end of the period of exposure. Respondents also showed fewer signs of depression and seemed to enjoy the material more with continued exposure. The results were generalized on responses to victims of sexual violence in form of a mock trial offered to the adult men at a later date. The control group (those who had not been exposed to violent films) rated the victim as being severely injured, while men who had watched sexually violent movies perceived the victim as being less injured. In addition, men who had watched violent films (as compared those that were not exposure control group), were less sympathetic to the rape victim presented in the trial and in general empathized less with rape victims. However, these effects were not observable with exposure to a single film. Continued exposure to violent film was necessary to affect the participants’ general sympathetic and empathetic responses. In another study by Linz and others (602), it was indicated that viewers become more comfortable with anxiety aggravating situations in a similar way they would if they were under desensitization therapy. In another study by Carol Krafka and her colleagues (150), agreed with Linz findings as applied to women who viewed sexually violent films.
A definitive epidemiological research on the effects of TV violence was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The studies depicted what took place in various countries nations after the invention of television and its appearance in these nations as compared to those that were without TV. The nations or regions in comparison are demographically and culturally alike; save for one variable: TV presence. The research indicated that; in every nation, or region where there is TV, there is an instantaneous outburst of violence on the playground, and the rate of murder doubles within 15 years. Fifteen years is how long it takes for the desensitization of a 3-5 year-old to attain the “prime crime age.” In other words, it is how long it takes to harvest what the media sows by brutalizing and desensitizing a 3-year-old.
Currently, there is overwhelming evidence that links violence in the media to violence in society as compared to that linking cancer and cigarette smoking. Researchers have conducted a myriad of studies, which have illustrated the social impacts of desensitization by the media. In 1992, The Journal of the American Medical Association documented that, the advent of TV in the 1950’s subsequently doubled the homicide rate. This implies that, continued childhood exposure to TV is the cause of more than 50 per cent of the homicides committed in the United States; this is equivalent to or about 10,000 homicides every year. The document also indicated that; hypothetically, if TV would have not been invented, the number of homicides would reduce by 10,000 fewer annually in the United States, rape cases would go down by 70,000, while injurious assaults would reduce by 700,000 (June 10, 1992).
Desensitization theory
The desensitization theory is based on two-unique variables; impact of media violence on children, and children frenzied by media violence (Huesmann 203). Desensitization of children is regarded as a higher level form of aggression, which is occurs as a result of caused over exposure to violent settings such as, media violence and other forms of social violence, that makes children become more violent. In addition, children who are desensitized to violence will tend influence other children to adapt to such behavior (Huesmann 219).
Furthermore, desensitization would influence children to adapt to other types of violent behavior such bullying, and glorified violence, particularly amongst their peers (Funk 996). This is because violence is a part of cultural practice (Borden & Horowitz, 2002). Consequently, other children within their social environment would either mimic their behavior as a result of fear or adaptation (Huesmann 206).
Findings and discussions
As the studies indicate, desensitization has numbed emotional responses; this is contrary to the classical response (Bushman 454). Individuals are no longer having empathy for non-violent contexts; instead they prefer to be associated with violent contexts. Children are now behaving violently; they are condoning acts of violence and harbor violent thought, which can easily develop into violent actions. According to Huesmann et al., children that are heavily exposed to violence though the media not only do they develop negate responses but as they “observe blood, gore, and violence” (p. 202), acts of violence have become an acceptable way of life (Chory-Assad 432).
The military increases the killing rate of combatants in an instructive manner; this is the same way today’s culture is doing to children. The training methods used in army barracks are brutal and include; classical and operant conditioning as well as role modeling are used. In military context, this is very necessary since all that needs to be done is to see the enemy dead, quickly and brutally. Unfortunately, these same factors are significantly contributing to the unparalleled increase of violence in our society as showcased in the media.
Brutalization and desensitization are normal happenings at military bases. From the moment a recruit steps off the bus they undergo physical and verbal abuse: innumerable pushups, nonstop hours of standing at attention or running with heavy loads, as the circumspectly trained military experts enjoy screaming at them. Their heads are shaved, they are herded together nude and clothed alike, losing all touch with individuality. This desensitization is meant to break down ones existing civility and standards, so that they can accept a new set of values; violence, destruction and even death as part of life. At the end of the day, one is desensitized to violence and they accept it as a way of life and indispensable survival skill in their brutal novel world (American Academy of Pediatrics 1226).
In today’s society something very similar to military desensitization to violence is being experienced by children through violence in the media. Surprisingly, instead of 18 year olds, 18 months old children are able to discern what is taking place on TV. At this age when a child watches something on TV, they easily mimic that action (Brown et al., 2005). Psychologists have always argued that it is until children are of ages six or seven that they begin to understand where information originates (Fellon 346). But this is contrary to what is happening to children today, they can even tell you their favorite wrestling athlete. In as much as young children have some understanding to distinguish between pretence and reality, they are psychologically unable to discern clearly between reality and fiction (Funk et al., 2003). According to Brady (2005), media violence displayed within the family setting is the same as domestic violence. This is because; mass media acts as a social role model and is portrayed within the family setting (Brady 205).
When young kids watch someone being shot, stabbed, assaulted, degraded, or even murdered on television, to them it is really happening. Having a three year old watch a “bloody” movie, getting associated to a character for the first stages of the movie and then in the last stages watch vulnerably as their new found friend is hunted down and cruelly butchered can be likened to introducing that child to a friend, letting them play with that friend, and then going ahead to butcher this new friend in front of their eyes. This is what is happening to children every now and then (Mullin 449).
Innocently, they are told: “Honey, it’s just TV, this is not real.” And they naively accept by nodding their little heads saying, “Okay.” The truth is, they simply cannot tell the difference. Most of adults can refer to a point in their life or their children’s life when reality, dreams, and TV were all muddled together. This is part of children’s psychological development process and is what the media is feeding them with (Carnagey 492). As a result, media violence becomes the reinforcing means that encourages negative behavior (Green 76).
This paper recommends that, future research is needed to investigate two important variables within the family setting, media and social violence. Such kind of research would help to determine if there is any association between the two variables, which propose a relational affect rather than a causal affect. Additionally, this could help researchers examine if there is any correlation affect exists between media violence and type of family (for example, single parent, and two parents’ e.t.c.). In this regard, most researchers have indicated that determined that single parenting is more resilient to violence, as compared to children raised within the two-parent family. Two parents family would give the researcher an opportunity to provide to investigate the background of both parents.
In conclusion, exposure to media violence is likely to result in desensitization; whereby viewers’ feelings of sympathy, empathy and concern toward victims of real violence are diminished. Research has clearly indicated that, viewers who are continually exposed to large amounts of media violence depict diminished emotional reactivity to violence in other contexts. Men and women as well that are exposed to violence are less sympathetic toward assaulted victims depicted in other contexts and generally empathize less with these victims.