Less Exposure to Violent Media Makes Youths Less Aggressive

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By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter
Wednesday, October 29, 2008; 12:00 AM

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Children and young teens with only minimal exposure to violent entertainment in the media are far less likely to engage in aggressive behavior, a new survey suggests.

"We're looking at a slice in time, so I can't tell you that the media exposure is causing violent behavior, or in the reverse that violent kids are looking for violent media," noted study author Michele Ybarra, president and research director of Internet Solutions for Kids -- a nonprofit research organization based in Santa Ana, Calif.

"But what we can tell you is that kids reporting that none or little of the media they are exposed to depicts violence are significantly less likely to be violent or aggressive than kids exposed to some or a lot of violent media."

Ybarra and her colleagues were expected to present the findings Wednesday at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting, in San Diego.

Earlier this year, researchers out of Dartmouth Medical School drew attention to the scale of exposure to violence among youth when they released results from a poll indicating that almost 13 percent of the nation's 22 million children between the ages of 10 and 14 routinely witness graphic violence while watching films, TV and/or DVDs.

The current work analyzes data collected by the national "Growing Up With Media" survey, which focused on almost 1,600 American boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 15.

The poll asked the children to rank the amount of violence they were exposed to via five key media outlets: TV and movies; music; computer games; Web sites depicting cartoon imagery; and Web sites involving real people.

Violence was defined as visual and/or verbal depictions of physical fighting, hurting, shooting or killing.

After reviewing the responses, the research team characterized exposure to such media violence as "none or almost none" among 6 percent of the kids. This minimally exposed group tended to include more girls, younger kids and white children.

A little more than 43 percent had "some" exposure, while just over 49 percent witnessed "more" violence than the rest.

Household income and marital status of the parents appeared to have no affect on violent media exposure levels, the authors noted.

Among those youth who had "none" or "some" exposure to media violence, the study authors found that 85 percent and 50 percent of each group, respectively, said they were less likely engage in seriously violent behavior, bullying or fighting -- as compared with children who had "more" exposure to violent media.

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