There have been a lot of claims and counter claims about the link between violence seen by people on television and videos, and actual violent acts. Does violence seen trigger violent actions?
There are research results that support this link, but many others that claim it is not proven. It is a bit like the efforts taken to shield jurors from media commentary about crimes so that they are not biased in their assessment of the real facts of the case rather than speculation.
Violence is so universal in modern communities, with children's cartoons among the worse offenders, that it is virtually impossible to find test subjects that have not been tainted by media violence. The more people are exposed to violence, the more they adapt to it.
The general conclusion from most reviews is that exposure to media violence does not preordained or trigger actual violence, but it is a risk factor.
Some researchers describe the risk as being similar to second-hand exposure to cigarettes and the risk of cancer. But this is surely a cop-out and an over-simplification.
Some people may be more at risk than others.
The most vulnerable may be stimulated to perform copycat acts of violence when they would otherwise not have done so.
The availability of semi-automatic weapons and hand guns worsens the severity of the response.
Inevitably, people can always can find a link to media violence in people who commit major crimes of violence and mass murders. They look through their family background, the videos they have been watching and the violent online games that have been playing. But many people play those games and watch those videos without committing acts of violence. Despite all the claims it is virtually impossible to establish cause and effect, except if the act of violence mirrored those seen in the media. Even then a copycat crime may merely be the mode in which the violence was expression rather than being the seed for the violence itself. Perhaps if a person that had a tendency for violence watched other TV shows or played other games they would have acted violently in other ways.
Several major studies provide reviews of research using meta analysis methods. This involves compiling the published results from the studies, combining them and re-analyzing all the data using statistical methods.
While the association between exposure to media violence and acts of violence can be demonstrated, proving actual causation is very difficult. Some key points are:
Clearly despite all the research, many unanswered questions remain, and more research needs to be done on causation.
Even if the strong association, increased risk, and potential cause was proven, would society and governing bodies really do enough about it to make a difference?
Would enforcing a restriction on the number of hours children watch television every night to 2 hours, really make a difference?
The same applies to the various film and video classifications and age restrictions for movies and videos. Would tighter controls really make a difference?
In the era of unsupervised computing, and pirated downloads are the norm, how could anyone really hope to block things in ways that would really make a difference?
How can we really know what would make a difference?
This will always throttle pressure on Governments to take action. Imposing regulations requires justification, even if the case is obvious to most people.
Establishing what would really reduce the level of violence in society is very hard to do and people always look for some type of scapegoat. In this case it is violence in the media.
Society and the politicians that represent, them must decide whether it supports the regulation of violent media and how to implement and justify the regulations. Unfortunately the research data is not clear-cut.