Of all the criminal activity that causes concern amongst society, it is undoubtedly violent crime that remains the most pertinent. The statistics for violent crime in the US have fluctuated over the previous 20 years, rising, falling and then rising again since the turn of the century. There were an estimated 1.8 million instances of violent crime reported in 1995, which reduced to 1.3 million in 2003. This approximate figure has risen again to more than 1.4 million in 2009, prompting concerns of a further increase and gradual decline of social conditions.
There have been several theories forwarded for increased violence amongst society’s members, some of which have been developed since an initial explosion of violent felonies in the 1960’s. The most forward thinking and relevant today is George Gerner’s renowned cultivation theory, which emerged from his experiments and research conducted over a 20 year period. His project involved looking at the effects of television and social media has on impressionable young minds, and their reaction and understanding of concepts such as politics, ideology and violence.
A Relevant and Innovative Study
The reason that Gerbner’s work remains so relevant is the focus from contemporary society on the frequency with which young children play video games. The development of games consoles and games with violent tendencies began to peak in the early 1990’s, coinciding with the sudden increase in instances of violent crime. Gerbner’s studies examined television and media outlets in how they influenced people’s thoughts and actions, and although violence and the effects of violence were a portion of his work, his findings were significant none the less.
Cultivation theory argues that people’s perception and understanding of the world are affected by media resources, and that television and sensationalised media reports actually leaves people feeling that the world is a far nastier and despicable place than it actually is. This is referred to as Mean World Syndrome, and quite aside from creating a culture of trepidation and anxiety, it leads to the understanding that violence is an inevitable part of life and even necessary to survive in the contemporary world. With this outlook, violence gradually becomes a mechanical and everyday function.
When you consider the wide use of video games, this theory becomes even more relevant. Although these games do little more than TV and media to glamorize and sensationalise violent acts, they go one step further to encourage interaction and participation in recreated violent scenarios. As well as re-affirming Gerber’s concept of perception and making realistic violent imagery a core of everyday existence, video games have the potential to further desensitize youngsters to the consequences of violent acts. This is a dangerous combination, especially as it affects a much younger generation of society than TV and news bulletins traditionally reach.
General Apathy and a Lack of Empathy
Of course, society as a whole has made many calls to government bodies to create and implement regulations to modify TV and video game content. However, this blithely ignores the role that the parents and responsible adults are required to play in regulating their own children’s TV watching and game playing behavioural trends. The lack of guidance and stringent supervision from guardians in which games and programming their child is exposed to is of huge concern, and perhaps suggests and a sense of apathy from the older generation towards violent imagery and its subsequent effects.
For this issue, it is possible to draw on more of Gerber’s research. An area of his studies revealed that adults who were moderate to heavy TV viewers were known to develop a sense of political apathy and cultivate a ‘middle of the road’ attitude towards society. This is partly due to aspects of censuring pertinent in television programs towards opinion and ideology, if not necessarily the graphic images displayed. Such apathy and diluted values create a more lax attitude to parenting and guidance, while also meaning that adults are less likely to display empathy to fellow citizen’s plight and troubles.
A Diverse Theory
The most interesting aspect of Gerbner’s work is the way that it has developed relevance as society has modified through the last 20 years. The effects that media reports of violence and graphic violent recreations of TV and video games have on its viewers and participants have been widely discussed through the 1990’s and the last decade, with many conclusions reflecting those discussed in the theory of cultivation. The studies findings reflect that even as early as the 1960’s television and media outlets were beginning to influence the thoughts and perception of people, and this has developed gradually over time to create a society of parents and guardians lacking in both empathy and awareness.
As the new generation have grown and been immersed in online and video game culture these problems of worsened, leaving a plethora of young adults desensitized to violence and its consequences, and also socially inhibited. Though it easy to proportion blame amongst governments and teaching establishments, these issues are much easier to solve within the everyday US household. By parents taking regimented control of their children’s activity, they can regulate how much fictional and reality television that they watch, and also regulate the nature of the video games that they play. This method of responsible parenting is the only sure-fire way to modify children’s behavioural trends for the better.