What’s Influencing Today’s Youth?

Briana Erickson

History shows that people change over time: clothing fads, music styles, and television shows are enough to prove this. However, is today’s generation of children spiraling out of control?

In what are considered “good neighborhoods”, girls as young as twelve and thirteen are becoming parents, students are caught daily in possession of illegal substances, and every time you look in the news, you hear about more and more middle schoolers getting themselves arrested.

On May 3rd, in Lakeland, Florida, three boys were recently arrested for conspiracy to commit murder after a guidance counselor reported some dark and suspicious entries written in one of their journals.

Violence is increasingly becoming part of a detrimental future for our society. With movies and video games, along with all the violence portrayed to us over seas, and even in our own country, it is no wonder the seed of destruction is being sewn into the younger generation.

The Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior was formed in 1969 to assess the impact of violence on the attitudes, values and behavior of viewers.

The resulting Surgeon General’s report and a follow-up report in 1982 by the National Institute of Mental Health identify these major effects of seeing violence on television: Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, children may be more fearful of the world around them, or children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others

Research by psychologists L. Rowell Huesmann, Leonard Eron, and others found that children who watched many hours of violence on television when they were in elementary school tended to also show a higher level of aggressive behavior when they became teenagers. By observing these youngsters into adulthood, Drs. Huesmann and Eron found that the ones who’d watched a lot of TV violence when they were eight years old were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults. Interestingly, being aggressive, as a child did not predict watching more violent TV as a
teenager, suggesting that TV watching may more often be a cause rather than a consequence of aggressive behavior.

Violent video games are a more recent phenomenon; therefore there is less research on their effects. However, research by psychologist Craig A. Anderson and others shows that playing violent video games can increase a person’s aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior both in laboratory settings and in actual life. In fact, a study by Dr. Anderson in 2000 suggests that violent video games may be more harmful than violent television and movies because they are interactive, very engrossing and require the player to identify with the aggressor.

Dr. Anderson and other researches are also looking into how violent music lyrics affect children and adults, since these are becoming increasingly more the music of choice for youngsters. In a 2003 study involving college students, Anderson found that songs with violent lyrics increased aggression related thoughts and emotions and this effect was directly related to the violent content of the lyrics. “One major conclusion from this and other research on violent entertainment media is that content matters,” says Anderson. “This message is important for all consumers, but especially for parents of children and adolescents.”

With that being said, there is a lot to think about the information, visuals, and music open to the public and the younger, more impressionable generation. There’s one song by Simple Plan that says it best: “It doesn’t make sense to me/is everybody going crazy… if you open your eyes/you’ll see that something is wrong…”

And, being cautious about what media the younger generations experience is the first step towards making it right.