Currently observed increase in the number of crimes related to violence, especially among children and adolescents, makes people think about what social conditions lead to this. Perhaps, such values as individualism and materialism in society contribute to the increase in violence. Alternatively, the reason is the increasingly widening gap between the power of wealth and poverty of powerlessness. Another variant is that stalking savoring of violence in mass culture leads to this result. The latter assumption arises from the surge of physical violence coincided with an increase of bloody scenes in the media, especially on the TV.
Nowadays, the television broadcast a great variety of different programs, commercials, movies, and they abound in violence and sex. Currently, it is the main “food” of the audience. Many scientists and researchers in the field of press and mass communications has sounded the alarm about the fact that terror without the television does not make sense, and violence on the screen should be restricted by law (Ardis, Centerwall, and Huesmann). This work is devoted to the television broadcasting in order to clarify an overall assessment of morality on television, as well as urge to act, in particular, regulating broadcast of the television programs and films containing scenes of violence, sex and profanity.
An informational impact of the media on the audience as a scientific problem was delivered in the first half of the twentieth century (Ardis 37). With the advent of television, which is a mass, powerful and extremely effective tool for the formation of attitude to the world among the audience, interest in this issue has reached a new level. One of the central themes of this kind of research was medial violence and its role in the transformation of people’s ideas about real life. However, in case one summarizes an overview of the known approaches to the study of the medial effects, their excessive diversity and inconsistency that sometimes reaches to diametrically opposed assessments strikes.
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For example, the theory of stimulation and social learning theory are the basis for the growing accusations against the TV (Bandura 13). Supporters of the accusatory position say about notorious justification of violence through its medial presentation and the desensitizing effect of such scenes on the minds of teenagers, etc. Remarkably, it is surprising how the today youth manage to remain tolerant and not violent receiving such unreasonably large charge of negative emotions daily. After all, if their behavior really depended on the television broadcast only, the criminal actions would be counted in thousands; the reality would be closer to the virtual reflection. Against the background of the debate about the phenomenon of violence, similar pattern is unlikely to provide a good material for a methodological problem solving related to television consumption.
On the other hand, the opponents of strict legislative and administrative measures restricting the display of violence on television believe that “cinematic” acts only on marginalized groups that are originally inclined to inappropriate behavior (Centerwall 16). Here, one can use the concepts by S. Feshbach that despite their criticism, continue to serve as a good support for this kind of ideology (Feshbach and Tangney 387). Scientists explain their lack of aggression after continuous reception of programs containing violence by the phenomenon of “replacement” of aggression, which leads to the inhibition of negative manifestations of personality or to increased control over them.
These radical differences are very characteristic. Television is seen either isolated from a variety of other factors affecting the real state of affairs, or its role is leveled to the level of minor sources of impact on the psycho-emotional state of a person. Linear, deliberately biased assessment of the role of the television creates an ideal field for the various manipulative practices including those in the scientific world. In addition, one does not take into account the important point: in any historical and social era, the phenomenon of violence is seen, above all, emotionally i.e. at a level beyond logic; hence, its reception is to be influenced by the expressive-communicative and aesthetic factors that are understandable and accessible to the general public at any given time.
One of these especially powerful forces is the television culture, as well as the cinema had recently had dominant intellectual influence while earlier, it was the tabloid press. For this reason, in one era, unhurried events that took place on the silver screen were seen as a catalyst of violence. With the development of communication technologies, cinema was replaced with endlessly designed TV and computer characters and amazing monsters. Studies of cinematography held in different countries in the early twentieth century (Ardis and Centerwall) gave similar results: very naive and even chaste movies according to the modern standards provided at the time of their appearance marked “criminalizing impact” on teenagers. At that time, information chaos did not overwhelm the society, it has not yet been confused by a variety of “evidence-based” concepts, and things could have been called by their names.
Numerous studies confirm the already expressed thesis that the current generation of teenagers perceive in the course of growing a huge number of scenes of murders, violence and cruelty, numerable in tens of thousands by means of the TV watching. Since each of these scenes is made truthfully because it certainly tends to attract the viewer’s attention, there is a feeling of total pseudoreality pressure on the consciousness and the surrounding world. The conductor of this increased aggression is the TV. It is not surprising that scientists distinguish a group of people who are not only entirely dependent on media products but also turned into real TV-addicts. Fear of violence pouring from the TV screens makes them think that the same thing is happening outside the windows of their apartments although in reality, there is nothing of the kind: the number of victims and disasters is disproportionately lower (research shows that during the day, the viewer gets over a hundred of scenes of murders and violence acts with blood) (Coyne 207).
Informational violence is not only inevitable but even necessary emotional background, which is spread to all spheres of life. It is the “new” social quality of the information correlated with phisiologism and human need to be prepared for physical threats from the outside, i.e. with the qualities that a person has acquired in ontogenesis as an individual, not as a person. In Europe, they began to raise the alarm years ago. However, the results are not very impressive. For example, in Germany, the Commission on Violence allocates special role to the media (Grossman and DeGaetano 137). Some of the results of the Commission are of interest not only for Germany: the shift of emphasis in research from the information technology to the perceiving consciousness clearly signals the transition to a new post informational stage. The media play an increasingly important role, which was previously imposed as a duty to schools, churches and families, and have an impact on the values, goals and styles of relationships in society. Television has become “the main tool to consciousness industry.”
The media promote the adoption of social cliché, “enemy images” through “simplified and yet inevitably falsified image of reality” (Hopf, Huber, and Weiß 79). Clichéd representations are very dangerous because based on them, for example, a simple opponent is directly identified with the enemy. However, to be more precise, one should say that this is not just a cliché; it is a repetition of certain stereotypes that have become a resistant concept, but simplified, primitive and, therefore, distorted clichés distorted the picture of the world presented by the media as a reality. The participation of people in public life in such circumstances becomes insignificant: a departure from the community and social disintegration contribute to the development of deviant attitudes and crime in a variety of its manifestations. Television methodically and inevitably creates a grim picture of the reality. The reason for this is the fact that relevant for the TV information is often aggressive and destructive: sensationalism sought by the media can lead to the formation of negative perceptions of the world. Allocation of social and environmental disasters, as well as political and economic scandals, led to the fact that a large part of the audience has a “mood of the deadline.”
The image of violence as a kind of inevitable givens and, as a consequence, the legitimation of violence in the media is of particular importance in promotion of various forms of crime including elements of violence. The image of violence is a verbal and/or optical presentation of physical and mental violence. According to the findings of researchers, deliberate understatement of the social role, the attack on the dignity and identity of the individual and social groups in the television programs in fact justify violence (Huesmann S10). This is especially true for women whose dignity and honor are humiliated by pornographic pictures.
The image of violence has a significant share in all TV programs, but recipients are regularly denied in the analysis of its causes. Violence is justified simply by force; it is idealized and appears on the screen in the form of an incoherent action. Violence scenes are directly imprinted in people’s minds because the information offered by these pictures does not encourage speculation. It is an indicative situation: the media and primarily the TV use the information as a mechanical pulse “catching” the reflexes. The audience subject to the rules of laid down ethical model master these stimuli by producing appropriate social responses to them. The result is the coexistence of two opposing worlds: the world of electronic and technical medial information (journalists and peace mediators) and socially conditioned world of cultural and ethical expectations (the world of the audience).
Social information distorted by technical causality of medial language leads to disastrous consequences. It is also appropriate to emphasize that violence is not the only flaw of sophisticated suggestion that customers face (the more developed the country, the more channels of influence there are). The results of this situation, which has already become a familiar and seemingly justified, are as follows. The apparent successive aggressive model gradually changes attitudes towards violence, which leads to the trivialization of violence; violence can be understood as a practical means of solving the problem as “legitimate, normal situation” and as a valid way of conflicts solving. The television interpretation of reality changes people’s ideas about it, and even their relationship. Violence on the television can be understood as the motivation for violent behavior. In some cases, the television attention becomes a direct incentive to the offender, an occasion to get “on the scene” to become glorified. For example, one-sided presentation of the report on the escalation of violence at the time of aggressive demonstrations or during large sporting events can create the effect of self-fulfilling prophecy that will actualize expectations aimed at aggression and provoke a departure from the reasonable limits of “peaceful” visitors and, of course, the participants that are pre-configured to violence.
The internal logic of the media, their method of operation, selectivity of their attention and the choice messages are in constant conflict with duties of chronicler, values, and orientation of messages. Quite often, the topic of violence is being developed; sometimes it occurs on the basis of sympathy for executing violence. The television appeared in an ambiguous position. The violence is an integral part of society’s existence. To mix violent scenes means to create an incomplete picture of the world. On the other hand, emphasizing violence and aggression can lead and leads to its escalation. It is a kind of vicious circle that illustrates isolation and finiteness of technocratic civilization. The most important fact is that non-violent television cannot exist. Adjusting this paradox to its logical extreme, one can say that television interpretation of the world as such is an act of aggressive and violent intrusion into reality. The television is contrasted to the world; it opposes the reality, struggles with the world and wins.
The Impact of Violence in Contemporary Television Programs on the Child’s Personality
With the help of television, children form the “image of the world” understand the concept of good and evil, justice and friendship and other social phenomena. However, psychologists are more and more sounding the alarm about the mass addiction of children to the TV viewing. In fact, there is an expression “screen kids.” Children of preschool age spend their time near the TV screens during 2 to 6 hours a day on average. The greatest amount of time children spend in front of the TV is from 18 to 22 hours. Attention is drawn to the fact that children who do not attend kindergarten spend at the TV screens two times more than children attending preschool institutions. Therefore, they get the habit of continuous viewing of TV programs together with their parents, especially working mothers with grandmothers. The trend that preschoolers have a particular interest not only to children’s programs and animated films, but also to art and detective films and information programs addressed to an adult audience became apparent. It is noteworthy that naturalistic display of violence takes place implying a detailed screening of victims, of bloody corpses, bloody fights, severed heads, kidnappings and suchlike.
The level of danger that a TV presents to a child is debatable:
- Firstly, it must be said about the special sensibility and ability of the child’s mind to suggest. Film on the TV affect a person in many ways at the unconscious level. Only a part of the information that is perceived by a child affects the consciousness. The images, sounds, signs and symbols have an inspiring impact. For example, the thunder, the sounds of falling rocks, howling blizzards, among others cause such emotions as fear or a sense of horror.
In addition to the clear demonstration of violence, cinema actively uses implicit violence. For example, a train oncoming at the viewer makes the child fear of being crushed. The scenes of murder in tightly closed room, locked doors, key in the lock on the inside, the sound of busy heart, which are not realized by the audience – all these contribute to the development of feelings of anxiety and constant danger. In order to defend against these unpleasant emotions, the child displaces them in the unconscious part of the psyche. An adult may not immediately notice any obvious changes in the behavior or response of the child. Most parents report that their children like watching detective movies or movies with elements of violence. However, those unpleasant emotions and terrible images or sounds that the child perceives from the screen are stored in the unconscious and can disturb the baby in the form of dreams, fears, increased anxiety or neurotic symptoms.
- Secondly, it must be said about the “habituation effect” and the contagiousness of aggressive behavior. Continuous viewing of violence blunts emotional feelings among children; they become accustomed to violence, and they form indifference to human pain. If every 15 minutes on the television screen pain or violence are broadcast, after a while, the child perceives it as a norm. He forms the standard of emotional response. It can be assumed that the lack of spirituality and the special cruelty of the contemporary adolescents are strongly associated with emotional, moral and ethical standards, which have been formed by their society, and especially the TV.
Psychological studies have shown that if a preschool child is exposed to video-related violence in a laboratory, he/she immediately afterwards starts to behave aggressively (Grossman and DeGaetano 200). to the reason for this is the fact that children tend to imitate the behavior that has received positive reinforcement. For example, an aggressive cartoon character is the winner, and nobody condemns him. According to psychologists, a certain way of understanding the aggression develops during the screen fights in young viewers; thus, a certain script of actions creates, which is not recognized by the child (Grossman, and DeGaetano 215). However, when faced with difficulties in relationships with people, the child remembers the scenario of aggressive behavior, which he/she constantly sees on the screen, this script tells him the likely course of action.
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- Thirdly, it is important to mention “romanticizing” of villains in feature films that children watch with their parents’ affrays. Romanticizing of the negative lifestyle leads to the formation of the corresponding moral behavior patterns. Sometimes, parents feel that the child perceives the film as an adult does. However, it is not true. The child does not understand the metaphors and cannot properly understand the events on the screen since thinking of a preschool child is visual-efficient and visually-shaped. He/she catches the main line of the plot and the concrete behavior.
- Fourthly, it should be noted that the modern television does not support the mental development of children. The share of developmental programs in television is from 1.5% to 3% of broadcast time. One should compare it with advertising that takes 23% of the television time (Grossman and DeGaetano 76). A child who watches a cartoon or a movie is identified with its heroes. The process of identifying with real or imaginary models and carriers of moral rules is imperative. Therefore, it is very important what TV program the child watches.
A modern person does not live only in the external material world but also in the global information field. Information space surrounding the person largely determines the formation of his/her “worldview”. It is hard to imagine the life of the modern family without television. Television is a “window to the outside world”, and at a reasonable approach, it can serve as an educational and entertaining tool. Research media, particularly the television both in the USA and abroad are successfully maintained for a long time. One of the most urgent problems in the study of telecommunication is the problem of assessing and measuring the psychological aspects of human exposure to television. Television has a powerful potential to shape public opinion, the mindset of people, which, in turn, acts as an important factor in the regulation of social behavior.
On-screen violence today is a form of mass entertainment. Violence, including the broadcast one, is a component of the mass consciousness. Unfortunately, in the pursuit of commercial gain, a great number of creators and distributors of films clearly alter the sense of proportion. There is much more violence in the movies than it is required by economic considerations, and inadmissibly more to be able to effectively perform the public functions of cinema. Cinema is intended to instill in people a sense of faith, love and hope.
It is obvious that most of the younger generation is trapped in screen violence. Without the help of public institutions, it is impossible to solve the problem. Thus, the activation of the social forces – from families and schools to government agencies – is promising. Anyway, an adequate assessment of the escalation of violence on the screen should be given, and the real work to combat its spread and mass perception should be started.