The Effect of the Violent Content of the Shows, Movies or Computer Games on Children – Literature review Example

The paper “The Effect of the Violent Content of the Shows, Movies or Computer Games on Children" is an exciting example of a literature review on social science. In the early years of film, there were strict rules by which filmmakers made movies; if not legal, then moral.  Innuendo and the power of suggestion served the imagination of viewing audience well, and it wasn’t a stretch to imagine what Dracula or Frankenstein actually did, without seeing the explicit blood, gore, or sexual violation visually.  Today, there is a totally different industry and societal perception of violent content in films, that is, the more violent and explicit the work, the greater the box office returns.  The impact that film violence has on its viewing audience, especially young people, has been the subject of extensive study, and even legal suits attempting to hold filmmakers financially responsible for damages allegedly arising out of certain individual’s response to the violent film content.  However, thus far, the courts have rightfully upheld freedom of expression, placing the burden where it belongs, on parents for monitoring the content of the films their children view, the amount of time their children spend viewing film, television, and video games, and most importantly the child’s own violent behavior.

Perry Zirkel writes about a young ninth-grade student named Michael Carneal, who on a December day in 1997, in Paducah, Kentucky arrived went to school packing a .22 caliber pistol and five shotguns, which he then used to murder three of his fellow students, and wound five others (p 556).  While Carneal was convicted of the murders and attempted murders, attorney Michael Breen filed suit on behalf of the victims of Carneal’s violent attacks against filmmakers of the film The Basketball Diaries, which features a student’s realization of his fantastical desire to murder his classmates (p 556).  In addition to the film, reports Zirkel, Carneal also had video games that were deemed to contain a high content of violence and had been accessing pornography sites deemed to be sexually explicit with regard to violence against women (p 556).   The lawsuit failed and was subsequently heard before the Sixth Court of Appeals, and on August 13, 2002, that court rejected the claim citing Kentucky precedent and saying, “It appears simply impossible to predict that these games, movie and internet sites (alone or in what[ever] combinations) would incite a young person to violence.  Carneal’s reaction was simply too idiosyncratic to expect the defendants to have anticipated it (p 556).”  The Court acknowledged, too, that mental health experts might disagree with its findings (p 556). 

Experts do indeed disagree with the court’s findings.  Deborah Prothrow-Stith and Howard R. Spivak (2004), write “It is foolish to think that children are not influenced by these messages and behave accordingly.  It should also not be surprising to learn that children and teenagers show up in hospital emergency rooms with gunshot wounds and sometimes state that they weren’t expecting so much pain.  They have seen so many people shot on television, in cartoons, and in the movies without demonstrating pain.  Children have a rather bizarre impression that there is little to no pain involved with such injuries (p 82).” 

What does it suggest to us when children and adolescents are spending enough time viewing movies and other media such that they act out what they have viewed, as Carneal did, inflicting death and injury on others?  It should suggest to us that the family system is failing when children and adolescents spend more time watching movies and video games alone than they do interact with their families.  While the experts do disagree with the courts in the Carneal case, the experts and legal experts that would lay the blame on violent movies and video games are just wrong, since the parents can and should control both the hours and content of what is being viewed in their homes.  Moreover, it would be a difficult task for any child or adolescent to come up with the cash to meet the high price tag of films or video games, much less have the mode by which to go to the source to purchase the product, to begin with.  The sad reality is that parents have designed television and video entertainment as babysitters, and the obvious result is it’s a bad substitution for parental guidance and authority. 

What has happened in the American family is that parents have relinquished their right to parenting to institutions, psychiatrists and psychologists and the entertainment industry.  A popular “reality television” show that emphasizes the deterioration of the American family’s parenting skills and abilities.  What is really unsettling is that the author of the article finds the show which is about to be mentioned as “positive” and a show that “really can change lives.”  The article by Dick Rolfe for the Dove Foundation’s Family Advocate to the Entertainment Industry, a not for profit entity found on web at www.dove.org, writes “On the positive side,” after having just discussed how reality TV was accused of causing a death, “’ Nanny 911’ and ‘Super Nanny’ are two ‘home improvement’ shows that really can change lives.  They feature parents who are at the end of their rope and dominated by unruly little “monsters” who have taken over the household (2006).”

This article, the author’s reference to children whose behavior is a manifestation of their emotional and physical neglect as “monsters,” and coming from a not for profit organization that holds itself out to be an entertainment industry and family advocate is deeply disturbing.  Perhaps though not as disturbing as the parents themselves who agree to have a stranger into their home to deal with their “monsters” and who, when the stranger identifies the social afflictions occurring in the home, tend to then have emotional breakdowns before the viewing audience.  What is obvious to even the layperson in each episode is that parenting skills and abilities are absent, and the parents are often devoting more time to their work and careers than their families, which means subordinating their parenting responsibilities to institutions and the entertainment industry.  Until parents are willing to spend time with their children, monitor the content of the material that comes into their homes, for which they pay, and so long as they’re not willing to invest the time to raise their families, providing emotional and physical support, guidance and sustenance, we will surely see an increase in child and adolescent violent behavior, and an increase in court cases being filed blaming that violent behavior on film, video games, and television.