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Public policy and effects of media violence

In a recent article, in Social Issues and Policy Review, Psychologists explore the literature on the effects of media violence on children and the lack of public policy to curb the risk. The authors, Doug Gentile, Muniba Saleem and Craig Anderson say that more can be done than has previously been tried, to reduce children?s media violence exposure. There are hundreds of studies which link media violence to aggression in children and adolescents, yet attempts to reduce children?s media violence exposure have failed.They suggest a few changes which can be made.

The authors say that there are certain reasons why changes are not being made.  Firstly, they say, most parents don?t think that media violence adversely affects their children.  Gentile say?s that the reason for this false belief is that it is much easier to see the effects of media violence on others and not ourselves.  Psychologists call this ?the third person effect?.

Another reason is that the media most often reports extreme forms of violence.  For example, the Columbine shootings or the Jamie Bulger case.  People know that they don?t go out shooting people after watching a violent video game or TV progamme and so they don?t think that there is an effect.  What Gentile and others are saying is that the effects on thinking and behavior are small and incremental, and only part of the picture. They say that ?in order to do something seriously violent, one must have multiple risk factors for aggression -- media violence is only one risk factor?.

According to Gentile, much public policy action has been taken on media violence in reaction to such major tragedies. Gentile suggests several suggestions for change, below are a few of these:

1.  Provide a public forum for research to be discussed and potential solutions debated to provide legislators an avenue for translating scientific research into publicly accessible language.

2. Create a different rating system. Gentile suggests that the current ratings for violent media are neither reliable nor valid. He said that 'Perhaps the single most effective policy that could be created to help parents manage children's media would be to mandate the creation of one universal rating system that could be used for all media, including TV, movies, video games, and recorded music,'

3. To implement a set of media literacy standards for children they recommend changes at the individual, the local and the national level.

4. The authors suggest that specific bodies could create policies which guide training. For example, they suggest that Pediatricians could be trained about the positive and negative effects of media, and provide parents with that information during well-child visits.

To read this article click here

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