We very often hear about the effects of the media. “Watching television makes you fat”, “violent videogames trigger violence” and “advertising causes pester power”, it is all familiar to us. But can we really blame all of this on the media?
Of course, there will always be someone saying that these things are proven, that the media does influence the audience, but are they really? There is always an experiment where experts, most likely psyhologists, try to reveal the truth between causes and effects, but how can they manage to prove anything? There is not any evidence, it does not exist. Well, the first saying that I mentioned is fairly easy to prove wrong actually, watching TV does not make you fat; it is the lifestyle which might come with it. Sitting in a couch all day while eating can very well have an effect like weight-gaining.
But videogaming and advertising towards children are tougher issues to come around. This is not because there are more evidence proving that they cause effects on an audience, it is because there have always been anxieties, or call it moral panics, connected to these issues. We have always been afraid of the media, blaming it for our children being violent, for having bad language, for dressing improperly and even for making us spend more money when we shop. It is like we have always needed someone to blame for our misbehavior, and of course, the media is the perfect source for that.
So why are we afraid of violent videogames and movies? Now this is when the we might call the media the bad guy. It is because we have heard too many stories telling us that videogames and movies are on of the reasons for violence. There are, it is sad to say, many examples of murders where the murderer seem to have been playing violent videogames or watched a violent video, and therefore we automatically conclude that “violent videogames trigger violence”! There is the Jamie Bulger case from 1993, the Martin Bryant case in 1996 and actually today some people suggest that the murders committed by Anders Breivik in 2011 were influenced by him playing World of warcraft and Call of Duty-Modern Warfare.
These kinds of stories promote moral panics, but they do not prove that it is the case, they are just assumptions. We should look at other causes before we jump to conclusions like how were their childhoods? How about neglect, abuse, alcoholism or bullying? This can be just as valid reasons for aggression as videogames! We learn by watching other people, by rolemodels, by being given moral codes from adults. This is more than a supposable cause for an effect. I am afraid that this is a harder source to blame though; it is tougher to point a finger at parents and society than at the media.