“The results of all of these meta-analyses show that exposure to media violence can increase not only aggressive behaviour in a variety of forms, but also aggressive thoughts, aggressive feelings, physiological arousal, and decrease prosocial behaviour.”
(Report of the Media Violence Commission. Volume 38, pages 336.)
So what’s wrong with that sentence?
“Can”, and the logical implication that this could just as easily say “can not” as neither terms are definitive.
As research for a short series of articles called “Video Nasties” I have been pouring through dozens of reports outlining media violence and its affects on its audience; and though a connection seems logical and likely, “cause” is far from the certainty the reports claim.
In truth is seems the report writers themselves seem unsure of their supposed certainty, else why would their reports be littered with weasel-words such as: could, may, can, perhaps and the umbiquous “growing body of evidence”? Few of these reports clearly present this evidence, in fact raw data seems as rare as modern Bigfoot sightings (and I would suggest as likely to exist), and I’m certain that the active avoidance of citing any raw data is not coincidental.
If it were a single report that presented itself in this fashion it could be dismissed, but every report I have so far read presents media violence as little more than a mitigating factor rather than the certain causal certainty they purport.
One interesting report on human aggression considers a very different cause concerning violence, and it is a surprising (at least to some) discovery.
“A type of high self-esteem (and not low self-esteem) produces high aggression. Specifically, individuals with inflated or unstable self-esteem are prone to anger and are highly aggressive when their high self-image is threatened.”
(Baumeister et al. 1996, Bushman & Baumeister 1998, Kernis et al. 1989)
If this is coupled with many modern teaching methods that inspire a belief in children that they are special just for existing, often developing disturbing levels of narcissism in the process, and you have a time bomb in every child.
The clear message with this information is not that exposure to violent films or games should be avoided, but rather that teaching children compassion and empathy should be at the forefront. This was a conclusion that brought me to another series of articles which centred themselves on the development of empathy, and what was necessary in order for it to properly develop. As it seemed clear that properly developed empathy was what controlled most peoples aggression when it is driven to high levels.
It would not surprise many that this all begins in the home, and with the parents.
Setting boundaries and enforcing rules is the key, and this is the exact opposite of the “special snowflake” syndrome that modern teaching produces. Limitation produces empathy. A broken boundary results in a loss of liberty and the child is taught the cause and affect of such actions; this is the core of empathy. If this “cause and affect” is broken a child grows to an adult that sees little or no connection between their own actions and the suffering of others.
In short; it creates extreme narcissism.
The frightening result of this line of thinking reveals that this is not a problem inadvertently taught to an unlucky few, but actually something systemic in our modern culture.
With the rise in popularity of “social networking sites” such as Facebook and Twitter we can see this behaviour in action. A casual scan of your own Facebook feed will reveal this clearly, each individual usually displays a level of self promotion and insular thinking that betrays their not-so-secret narcissism.
And you and I, almost certainly, are no less affected.
Watching video violence can contribute to an individual’s violent tendency, but it also can have little to ne affect; but a refusal to properly teach children the basic values of empathy always result is higher levels of narcissistic behaviour.
And when narcissism is defined as “a person who is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, and who is mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and to others in the process”, it is blatantly clear where such behaviour leads.