Technological advancements have increased people’s level of exposure to mass media. Through the mass media, people readily access screen violence that largely affects its embodiment in real life. This survey seeks to investigate the relationship that exists between screen violence and real life violence.
Keywords: screen violence, mass media, consumers, exposure, real life violence
Contemporary researchers heavily debate over the issue of violent media content. On the one hand, many scholars assert that screen violence is able to provoke people’s aggressive behavior and even indifference towards any kind of abuse when they frequently perceive such scenes on TV, in the films and news broadcasting among others. Namely, an opinion exists that violent content makes the viewers non-sensitive towards instances of this nature in real-life situations. Moreover, media speculate on this type of content whereas the more violent events are shown on the TV channel or other media, the broader audience is about to watch them.
On the other hand, the opponents of the aforementioned perspective tend to disprove such claims. Specifically, they state that violent behavior comprehended by audiences through the prism of media dimension can entice ignorance or, conversely, excessive violence manifestations only in cases when viewers have such aggressive signs of behavior as a constituent of their temper. In this regard, it is necessary to provide clarifications on these controversies in positions. As a result, there is a need to conduct an appropriate research on the topic.
The hypothesis to be developed can be stated as follows: does screen violence affect real-life violence perception? Obviously, people watching more screen violent content are more indifferent to real-life immoral events, whereas individuals watching less screen violence are more emphatic. In this way, an independent variable (IV) is referred to “screen violence”, while the dependent variable (DV) will comprise of investigation of whether or not the former one impacts “real-life violence perception.” The research attempts to clarify if there is a cause and effect relationship between the two variables suggested.
The centerpiece of methodology of the inquiry is a survey developed on the basis of a Likert scale. To derive essential information for use in this survey, questionnaires were produced and issued to 30 respondents. The respondents were students of New England College (Henniker, New Hampshire), which included 17 participants, and California College of the Arts, comprising 13 informants. The respondents arrived at a specific choice after considering a number of factors. It was essential to take into account the age bracket of the respondents, as well as their demographic variance with regard to social class, gender, religion and ethnicity. The target population was mainly composed of youths aged between 18 and 30 years. This age bracket includes inquisitive youths with high level of exposure to the mass media.
A range of questions was developed to investigate the main idea of mass media effects. The independent variable in this survey is screen violence while the dependent variable is the real-life violence perception. To obtain the desired responses, the questionnaires sought the respondent’s opinions over how perceiving screen violence would help avoid it in future, if the situations presented in screen violence depict the real life situation and if perception of screen violence results into a response from viewers. The questionnaire also asked about the level to which screen violence influenced the level of security in society.
The Likert scale questions helped determine the students’ understanding and attitudes toward screen violence. Besides these enquiries, the students were asked “yes” or “no” questions to find out how much they trust the source of mass media contents. Moreover, it examined their emotional response to the screen violence, and the influence that it had on their reactions to confrontations. Additionally, the “yes” or “no” questions were used to find out if the screen violence should be maintained as part of media content, as well as to reveal their role in shaping societal order. At the end, the respondents were given an opportunity to provide their overall comment on screen violence.
Research Plan and Sample
Due to the fact that the Internet is overwhelmed with a variety of unedifying content, and young individuals are the most frequent users of this tool, the sample involved youth as a vulnerable population group to be explored. The participants of the research had been recruited online through Facebook college groups and asked to take part in the study via emails. The respondents were 17 participants from New England College (Henniker, New Hampshire), and 13 informants from California College of the Arts.
The questionnaires are structured in a manner that provides for the indication of various demographical information about the respondents, including age, gender and ethnicity. All students surveyed were between 18 and 30 years old. The students aged 21 formed the majority, making up 60 % of the total population. Male students made up to 55%; 40% belonged to Asian-Americans, 25% to Caucasians, 20% represented Hispanics, 10% were African-American, and 5% were others/mixed. The students were classified as high consumers of mass media content due to their level of exposure and use of mass media. Out of the surveyed students, 85% relied on mass media as the source of information and believed every information passed across. They believed in the objectivity of the mass media based on the perception that the media contents are aired after a critical verification of facts. Only 15% doubted some media contents based on the understanding that they can be manipulated to favor individual interests.
The students were given questionnaires with Likert scale statements regarding their personal perceptions of screen violence on the mass media. The respondents were asked to indicate their perceptions on screen violence on a scale of 1 to 5. While responding to the questions, choosing the first one indicated that the respondents completely agreed with the statement and choosing the fifth one meant that they completely disagreed with the statement. The statements were as follows:
Q1. “Perceiving screen violence allows avoiding it in real life”
Q2. “I would like to assist a person in a case of violent behavior”
Q3. “The screen violence depict real life situation”
Q4. “Perceiving screen violence results into responsible acts by viewers”
Q5. “High exposure to screen violence contributes to a high level of security in the society”
In answer to the first question, 60% of the respondents disagreed with the idea that perceiving screen violence allows avoiding it in real life. This percentage was mainly comprised of the respondents aged above 21 years. The students that agreed with the decision to help an individual in case of a violent behavior formed 55% of the respondents as 80% of the students agreed with the idea that screen violence depicts real life situation. Only 30 % of the respondents agreed with the idea that perceiving screen violence results into responsible acts of viewers. The percentages indicated in the response track do not show any trends based on gender disparities.
Other questions included in the questionnaire address student’s level of knowledge and personal views on screen violence and mass media contents. The students responded to the questions by stating “yes” or “no” against each question. The questions include:
Q6. Do you trust the sources of mass media contents?
Q7. Do you often become emotional after viewing screen violence?
Q8. Have you ever been influenced by the perceived screen violence when reacting to a confrontation?
Q9. Should the screen violence be maintained as part of mass media content?
Q10. Does the screen violence help in shaping societal order?
The responses showed that the mass media contents are trusted by 80% of the respondents that take them as a true indication of the occurrences in the society. Most consumers of the mass media fail to question the reliability of the sources of the media contents. Out of the students surveyed, 80% indicated that they become emotional while viewing screen violence. 68% agreed that their reactions to confrontations are influenced by their perceived screen violence. Out of the respondents, only 40% were in support of the idea that screen violence should be maintained as part of mass media content, and only 30% stated that screen violence helps in shaping societal order.
The questions were formulated to help in understanding the relationship between the independent and the dependent variables. Based on the responses given by the students, it is possible to understand how screen violence influences real life situations. It is evident that screen violence does not help in avoiding real life vehemence. In response to the first question, 60% disagreed with the use of screen violence as a means of curbing real-life acerbate behaviors. The reason behind this perception could be based on the fact that viewers of screen violence mainly get a negative rather than a positive influence from it. They are unlikely develop the virtue of peaceful coexistence as their main motive is entertainment.
Most students showed reluctance to help victims in case of violent behavior. The reason is much exposure to screen violence makes people become much used to the violence to the extent that they do not see any danger in it. Much exposure to screen violence makes violence a part of human life. This reduces the level of emotional response and people’s level of sympathy for the victims of violence. Most respondents perceived the screen violence to be a clear indication of the real life situation. They failed to recognize the fact that some of the abuses presented on screen could be a result of manipulations done for people’s personal gain. This perception affects people’s view of actual situations in that they perceive violence to be a normal encounter. The media is packed with violence contents that make viewers imagine that they should always be prepared for a violent encounter and respond with equal force. This perception is unhealthy for societies that seek to maintain peace.
Only 30% of the students that were surveyed stated that perceiving violence resulted into responsible acts that would help in reducing the extent of violence in real life situation. This means that viewers often get emotional erosion as they consider violence to be part of life. They hardly learn from the consequences of violence but develop a high affinity to confrontations. The youthful age is made up of a highly inquisitive population. Most of the youths that are exposed to screen violence often develop a desire to practice the techniques that they view on screen. In the long run, the society becomes more ferocious and unsafe.
The level to which mass media consumers trust the credibility of the media content is very high. Majority of the respondents, 80%, indicated that they trust the sources of the media content. This shows that the population takes the screen violence as an indicator of real life violence. This view has a negative influence on real life violence in that it makes members of the society become alert and ever prepared for confrontations. The high level of preparedness implies that any little disagreement is magnified, resulting into violence. This is because the mass media presents violence as the only method of conflict resolution.
In response to question nine, 60% of those who responded indicated that screen violence should not be maintained as part of mass media content. This indicates that most of those who view screen violence have learnt that the contents they view have more harm than good. They perceive the media content as a factor that propagates real life violence rather than helping to prevent it. This shows that reduction or elimination of screen violence can help to decrease cases of real life violence. A reduction in the level of screen violence is likely to change people’s perception of it as the only conflict resolution method. People are most likely to perceive the society as a safe place. Hence, they seek to maintain peaceful coexistence. Only 30 percent supported the idea that screen violence helps in shaping societal order as in question 10. A larger number of respondents, namely 80%, were against the idea of using screen violence to shape societal order in that it erodes morality and inculcates a culture of immorality and confrontations.
Based on the findings of the survey, there is a clear indication of the fact that screen violence, an independent variable, is correlated with real life violence, the dependent variable.
Conclusions and Recommendations
This study shows that much exposure to screen violence increases the rate of real life outrage. Most viewers of screen violence are less informed of how it is better to consume media contents (Venhala, 2011). They consider every media item to be the true picture of society. As such, viewers of screen violence perceive social realm to be an arena of war. Therefore, the screen violence develops negative attributes of a confrontational nature of humans. Ultimately, people fail to reason so as to solve their disagreements, but resort to violence as the only conflict resolution method. This indicates that screen violence increases the cases of factual depravity.
The perception that screen violence can help people to understand its implications, hence avoiding the experience, is not true. This survey has clearly indicated that screen violence increases people’s preparedness for war and their inability to seek peaceful conflict resolution methods. Screen violence makes people perceive the society as being unsafe, increasing the urge to be involved in martial arts as a way of getting ready for a confrontation (Schneider, 2004). It results into a volatile society where everyone is prepared for war.
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Generally, the survey supports the existence of a correlation between screen violence and real life immoral deeds. A high level of exposure to screen violence causes an increased level of a materialized outrage.
To reduce the level of violence in society, it is advisable to check the level of exposure to screen violence. Mass media programs should be composed of ideas that promote morality in order for the level of violence content to be reduced (Strain, 2010).
It is also important to educate consumers of mass media contents on informed viewership. An initiative to educate consumers of media content helps them to understand that they should not consume the information passed to them via the media as the gospel truth. Therefore, viewers of screen media will be more careful as they start to try out some of the techniques proposed by the media.