young person's clenched fist held at sideThe connection between consuming media violence, whether through books, movies, video games, or television has been long debated and well researched. While there continues to be conflicting evidence, the majority of research shows that certain types of violent media can increase aggressive behaviors in children.

How can media contribute to aggression in children?

Today, there is a general consensus that violent media can contribute to children acting aggressively. The link between media violence and aggressive behaviors is largely due to the following:

  • Children (particularly young children) imitate what they see: Studies have shown that young children will imitate the aggressive acts they see being performed on screen.
  • Children learn from media that violence is socially acceptable and an effective way to solve problems: Many books, movies, TV shows and video games feature ‘heroes’ who solve crimes through violence and are subsequently praised and loved by society. Children may see their favorite characters’ acts of aggression as justified and internalize that to mean that acting aggressively is acceptable for them as well.
  • Desensitization: When children (or adults) see and/or interact with a substantial amount of media violence, they begin to accept aggressive behaviors as normal and are less shocked when they see it both in the media and in real life. Studies have shown that after seeing a lot of media violence, people are less likely to try to stop violence when they see it happen in the real world.

What YOU Can Do

Although violence can be found in many different forms of popular media, limiting how much violent media your children are exposed to can help ensure that they are not learning aggressive behaviors from the movies, video games, books and TV shows they interact with. Here are several suggestions to help you limit your child’s exposure to violent media:

Do Your Homework

Read book summaries before checking them out at the library or buying them for your child to read. Rating systems for TV, movies, music and even video games provide minimal information about content, however you can often watch movie and game previews, listen to clips of songs and use websites such as Common Sense Media to gain more information about what your child will actually see and hear.

Practice Media Literacy

In today’s often media saturated environment, teaching children to think critically about media is important. By showing them that media violence is often inappropriate and an ineffective way to solve problems, children will be less likely to view violence as socially acceptable and idolize those who use it.

Be a Media Role Model

Be aware of what you are watching and/or playing when your child is present. Understand that even if your child may not understand the content, the violence may still affect her. For older children, a lot of adult programming and Mature-rated video games are also inappropriately violent and may negatively impact them.

Remove Screens from Children’s Bedrooms

Keep TVs, computers and video game systems out of children’s bedrooms, and make sure that all other internet connected devices such as tablets and smartphones are left in a common room or your bedroom to charge overnight. By keeping these electronics in a common area, parents can monitor their use much more easily and be aware of how much media their children are using and if the content is developmentally appropriate.

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