Is Media Violence Causing Anger?
Before we can help kids get a grip on their anger, we need to understand why so many are blowing their tops in the first place. One piece of the puzzle is that kids today are immersed in a media culture that tolerates escalating levels of aggression. "When we were young, we watched our share of violence on TV and in the movies, but it was mostly between groups and from a distance," says Dr. Christophersen. "Today, kids are exposed to a lot more personal violence. Now you see close-ups of one person hitting or shooting his victim repeatedly." To make matters worse, more of these aggressors are cast as heroes. "One study showed that 40% of media violence is perpetrated by 'good guys,'" says Dr. Garbarino. "Kids are learning that good people are violent."
We may want to shrug off such over-the-top antics as harmless fantasy, but a new study examining media's impact on preschoolers suggests a more disquieting reality. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that for every hour of TV 4-year-olds watched daily, their risk of becoming bullies at ages 6 to 11 increased by 6% to 9%. In another study, from the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, girls ages 6 to 10 who often watched shows with aggressive protagonists were found to be more likely to develop into angry adults than girls who watched none or few of these programs. When we add slice-'em-and-dice-'em video games (which research has linked to more hostile behavior in young kids), it becomes difficult to dismiss Dr. Christophersen's assessment that "our media have become a training program for aggression."