As the country grapples for answers in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, some are pointing to violence in the media as a potential culprit. Do violent movies, TV shows and video games promote aggressive behavior in youth? We look at the latest research.

Christopher Ferguson, associate professor of behavioral, applied sciences and criminal justice at Texas A&M International University
Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based non-profit seeking to improve media and entertainment on behalf of kids and families
Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University

  • Do we really need a commission? Perhaps we should simply do what other (low murder) countries do: Universal healthcare? universal childcare? 24-hour community health clinics? Mental health parity? Bans on numbers and types of guns? Prevalence of violent video games? Are we so different in character to Canada? France, the UK Australia, etc.?

    • Or Switzerland which has more guns than the US?

  • Jesse Hammer

    Here we go again. I am so tired of this argument being dragged out every time something like this happens. Let’s all gang up on Marilyn Manson again. I am a lifelong horror and action movie fan and as much as I often enjoy violence and brutality on the screen I am still horrified and disgusted by it in real life. Those who are influenced by the media to commit terrible acts against real people instead computerized avatars or fictional characters have serious character flaws to begin with and would probably commit these acts under another influence anyway. Let’s start talking about dealing with the sorry state of mental health availability in this country and leave the movie, music and video game makers alone.

  • Guest

    I cringe whenever I hear someone talk about researchers “believing” anything. I don’t care what researchers believe…I care about what the results of their work *show*.

    And, we’re asking some loaded questions here, Mr. Krasney. Would it be too much to inquire whether research does/does not show that video games *reduce* aggression? I’m not suggesting they do, but the line of questioning thus far has been skewed towards fishing for a result. Please be careful.

  • Frank

    One fact you will never hear in the Mainstream Media, which includes NPR, is that the father of the Newtown shooter was about to testify in the US Senate about the LIBOR scandal, which involved multi-trillion dollar rigging of interest rates for lending between banks.

    This would be extraordinary and a huge red flag, because after all we know that chemicals can be administered that make a normal person homicidal and what if this was done to shut the father up… but what makes things even more extraordinary is that the Aurora Colorado shooter’s father ALSO was to testify to the US Senate about the LIBOR scandal.

    The odds of a connection between mass shootings and LIBOR are very very small, but two mass shootings being connected to LIBOR points to a “made it happen on purpose” situation (MIHOP).

    Clearly something very fishy is going on here, but as usual with the banker-friendly media, the omerta code of silence prevails so that the public only sees the bizarre after-effects i.e. mass shootings.

  • Herve Alexanian

    Beyond the objectionable content of some media, The media is generally very detrimental in promoting a short-term attention span and generally poor decision making. I am not just talking about influencing children with ADD, I mean policy makers. Just imagine the number of policies that are going to be modified or enacted in the next few days regarding school security, local gun control, divesting public funds from any stakeholder in BushMaster, etc… Then compare that with policies based on serious long term research your guests are presenting.

  • Jane Yurkevich

    I am a preschool teacher and observe a strong correlation between young children’s aggressive behavior and how much media exposure they have. I always suggest to parents to turn off all media and when parents do, the effects are drastic in terms of children’s socials skills and language development.

  • Parisa

    I don’t think that the argument is “if this, then that.” It is unfair to characterize the actual argument as one of a direct relationship; that is too simplistic. But there is certainly an argument to be made that after long periods of exposure to something, we, as a society, become a bit more desensitized to that thing. Just as people who watch a lot of pornography, become less interested in the real thing, we can argue that being constantly exposed to violence (not just in the media, but as part of our militaristic culture) makes one less sensitive to actual violence. After a while, when a society sees life through violence, then the more vulnerable part of our society or the more mentally disabled part of our society will certainly have more violent reactions.

  • Guest

    This segment is totally biased. Click.

    • FayNissenbaum

      it is irritating (in this discussion) that the media is off the hook of blame for its saturated coverage of the Newtown tragedy.

      • Frank

        They have to thrash about like this, trying to link anything to the shooting but the real causes. The media’s role is to prevent any real investigation of the shooting, such as the connection of the shooter’s father with the LIBOR scandal.

      • Guest

        The media/entertainment industry are never to blame, only those who watch and consume what they’re selling. Don’t like it? Turn it off.

  • FayNissenbaum

    Michael Krasny, please talk about featuring adam lanza’s picture in *countless* articles covering the tragedy. Videogames influencing the propensity to violence is unproven, but many psychologists and police agree that would be mass murderers are attracted to the *glory* of infamy that the media provides when they repost their picture. So do you think mass murderers are looking for their names in the ‘graffiti’ of the press and broadcast media? If so, should the photo of the murderer be banned or editorially diminished, at least?
    PS-I’m a former gametester for lucasarts in the presidio and we thought the violent video game arguments were ludicrous – just old folks finger-pointing at what they never tried themselves or had direct experience with. Football is violent and real, ahem. So ban violent sports like football, hockey, and of course, boxing???

    • Naina

      Violence in football is a side effect of playing football. The objective is not to seriously hurt or kill people. In fact there are penalties for actions that have the potential to cause serious injury (such as helmet-to-helmet). Instead of saying what “we feel” we should look at research (and who it was sponsored by) done on violence in media and its effects and try to form an opinion based on that.

      • FayNissenbaum

        Ahem, Naina. The evidence of violence in media causing violent acts in real life is overwhelmingly against your assertion (that vid games make kids violent).

  • William – SF

    As a 50+ year old man who plays a free online first-person shooter game, Battlefield Play For Free, as often as 3-4 hours a week, along with boys/girls and men/women, I find that the vast majority of online players are playing the game to exhibit their skills and bond/interface with other players.

    Once a month or less often, I run into someone who is clearly playing to excite some conflict (political / sexual) with a likely malevolent intention. Those rare players are generally bullied to leave the game and find another forum for their message.

    Many of the better players belong to or play in ‘clan’ specific servers where any anti-social behavior is not tolerated. The emphasis is on winning the game and good gaming skills.

    Generally, the public servers, those not associated with ‘clan’ servers, have little policing of suspect behavior. There are far more clan servers than public servers – perhaps indicative of player’s desire to exhibit skills, bond, and enjoy their gaming experience.

    • Frank

      Spam much?

      • William – SF


  • Mel

    Is there a personality type that would play video games in the first place? The only people I know that have the time or inclination to play video games tend to be of a type that isn’t as prone to play sports or have active face-to-face social lives or creative outlets that require intense synthetic activity, such as composing or inventing.

    • Guest

      Gee Mel, this comment sounds like it could only be from the TYPE PERSON who can’t relate to other people unless they’re stereotyped as some type of person. Could you make some more generalizations and use them as a category of analysis please?

      • William – SF


  • Tom Holden

    As we search for cause or reasons for yet another tragedy, I feel it’s important to look at all of the forces at work as contributing factors. We are living in a nation that has a ton of firearms, a lot of violence in the media, a shortage of consistent quality mental health care, and a lot of young people feeling disconnected or being raised in homes that are highly dysfunctional. Violent video games may not CAUSE these tragic events, but Bandura showed us with the Bobo doll that the environment does have an effect. The environment can strike the match and ignite the fuel of a predisposed person’s tendency toward violence. If the games and the media had zero effect, we would not have billboards and TV ads. If we are waiting for absolute cause and effect before we make a stand regarding games and violence, we will be in yet another global warming stuckedness- doing nothing until it’s too late? Tom in Santa Rosa

    • Frank

      Agreed. The fact that the shooter’s father is intimately involved in the multi-trillion-dollar LIBOR scandal and was to testify before the US Senate should not be overlooked.

      The fact that the Aurora shooter’s father was also intimately involved in the LIBOR scandal and was to testify before the US Senate should set the context for these discussions.

      People can be made to kill using pharmaceuticals. I suspect both shooters were made into killers in an effort to keep their fathers quiet about LIBOR.

  • jadee

    I grew up with three younger brothers and it was very obvious that their behavior was directly connected to entertainment. If we were watching a Disney movie on TV they behaved calmly during commercials and after the movie was over, but if we watched a movie like Karate Kid they were wild and kicking each other and acting out the movie. Kids behave in a reactive manner. I know that first hand.

  • All the experimental results I saw which demonstrated a link between violence and violent media only ever showed a very short term effect, on the order of hours. This sort of result is interesting in the abstract but wouldn’t be very interesting with regard to explaining violent behavior in real life. Can your guests speak to that?

  • FayNissenbaum

    What a disappointing show! Fergawdsakes, Michael, please stop saying that so-and-so “tweeted this question” – just say they “asked” the question.

  • Harley Baldwin White-Wiedow

    Jim steyer is talking about the video games industry’s responsibility. As a developer of sometimes violent video games, and Mother of two small children, I’m glad to tell him about where my sense of responsibility leads me. # 1 – to the kids I make these games for. video games, even violent ones, can help the poor lift themselves from poverty. it teaches them critical thinking, comfort with technology, primes their intellect for logical consistency, perseverance leading to success, and teaches them to learn and test skills under pressure – something that schools are failing to teach these kids. I have no responsibility to fear mongers who say in one breath “video games probably aren’t the highest cause if violent behavior” and in the next “no one knows if they cause violence” – you admit you don’t know, but your assumptions about them color not only your own relationship with them but, because of your position, the relationships of thousands, with no actual evidence.

    lets talk about what’s real – the best violent video games also present the player with moral and ethical choices, and if anyone on the” they must be bad because l don’t understand them” (including Michael, who disappointingly has clearly made up his mind without actual evidence) panel actually played them they would understand that almost all AAA violent games out now present the player not only with these choices, but a wide variety off verbs they can use to achieve goals.

    Do I let my 4 year old daughter watch me play violent games? No. not because I think out will turn her into a monster, but because she doesn’t understand fundamentally that it’s make believe, and thus has nightmares. The same is true of certain bible stories and the brothers grimm.


  • Nick

    Why promote the tendency to draw direct causation from this same weak correlation? Why not instead discuss the continued strong correlation between poverty and violence or domestic problems and violence?

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Highly recommend Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone Collapse American Community which speaks well to why we have become the society we have become.

  • Leo

    I like how none of these people don’t cite their sources, or cite very disputable sources as fact. Furthermore despite what one side wants to make it seem, both sides are making very broad, generalized statements.

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