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Save Your Brain from Media Violence

“For the first time in human history, most of the stories about people, life, and values are told not by parents, schools, churches, or others in the community who have something to tell but by a group of distant conglomerates who have something to sell” (Osborn). This quote, which comes from “The Violence Formula: How to Analyze for Violence in TV, Movies, and Video,” written by Barbara Osborn, is a frightening comment about the state of affairs of our culture. The conglomerate storytellers are less concerned with imparting positive cultural values than they are with making money. They know violence sells and they use it indiscriminately to make a profit. Among the consumers of this gratuitous violence are young children and teenagers who observe and absorb its content. Over time, the violent images depicted in music and film media have a detrimental effect on the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors of our youth.

The negative messages kids receive via the media have a damaging affect on their psyche and can create serious societal problems. In truth “[t]he violence to which American children are exposed in the name of entertainment is affecting their values and behavior, according to a recent statement from four of the nation’s top medical associations+(Davis). What are the examples of this fact? We have witnessed a plethora of shootings by high school students over the past few years. Just two weeks ago in Glendale, Arizona, a middle-school student held his teacher and several of his classmates hostage, using a gun as his weapon. More than likely, the portrayal of violent behavior in the media has given him the message that the way to resolve a conflict is through aggression. In fact “+the link between violent media and violent behavior is stronger than that between ingesting lead and having a lower IQ, than that between passive smoking and lung cancer, than that between failing to use condoms and getting HIV (Davis). What a powerful analogy! This comparison clearly illustrates that violent media can lead to an epidemic health problem.

Skeptics would like to believe that there is no validity to the correlation between media violence and youth violence. The truth is that the correlation has been documented dating back to 1960. In 1999, Senator Orrin Hatch, Utah, reported that “[m]ore than 1000 studies on the effects of television and film violence have been done over the past 40 years. The majority of these studies reach the same conclusion: television and film violence leads to real-world violence” (Children, Violence, and the Media). It’s hard to dispute. And it goes beyond physical activity. Media violence affects the mental health of the viewer as well. “Violence-laden television contributes significantly to the feeling of living in a mean and gloomy world (Gerbner). When the world we live in is depicted as dark and dangerous, we consequently feel frightened. Note the increase of gated communities, home protections systems, and barred doors and windows of homes. What more proof does the skeptic need?

For those who would argue that music lyrics should be excluded from the media violence debate, there is some evidence to substantiate those sentiments. “To date, no studies have documented a cause and effect relationship between sexually explicit or violent lyrics and adverse behavioral effects, i.e., I’ll listen to a song about killing someone and therefore I go out and kill (Palumbo). Apparently musically violence does not have the same impact as visual violence. But this doesn’t mean that we are completely unaffected by music. Music can and does affect our moods. It has the power to lift our spirits when we are feeling down, and sooth our sorrows when we feel sad. And it also had the power to create a sense of acceptance of the images it creates. In fact “[a] handful of experimental studies indicate that music videos may have a significant behavioral impact by desensitizing violence +(Palumbo). This means that frequent listeners and viewers of violently graphic music [video] are increasingly less shocked and horrified by the brutally explicit images they see. And if these young viewers don’t think the violence they see is wrong, than they won’t think the violence they commit is wrong either.

It has been said that if one does something for just two short weeks, it becomes a habit. And the longer one is exposed to a thought or idea, the more likely it is that he or she will become accepting of that idea. The truth of it is that what we are is what we allow ourselves to observe and what we allow ourselves to absorb. And despite what is pushed on us, what we observe and absorb is a choice that we have the power to make. While parents are able to better control what images their younger children see and hear, for obvious reasons, what their teenagers see is not as easily controlled. So, the choice is up to the teen. And teens should not to choose to observe and absorb violence; because “[t]he existing research shows beyond a doubt that media violence is linked to youth violence. As one expert concludes, ‘To argue against it is like arguing against gravity’” (Children, Violence, and the Media).

Over a period of time, continually subjecting your mind to negative stimuli can cause you to produce negative thoughts. Why do it? Why allow yourself to give up the two things you have ultimate control over: your thoughts and actions. Make your own decisions. Save your brain from media violence.

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