Media Violence: Television Violence Increases Aggression

Table of Content

Television has become widely prevalent in American households, with its presence growing from 9% in 1950 to 98% today. This increase in TV viewership is believed to be a contributing factor to America’s prominent position in real crime and violence, as some scientists establish a link between fictional violence portrayed on television and actual aggression. Regardless of differences in race, religion, gender, age, or socioeconomic status, all Americans share the cultural phenomenon of television. However, the impact of mass media, particularly television, on individuals remains a highly debated subject.

One area of controversy revolves around whether exposure to TV violence leads directly to aggressive behavior. Various theories within social psychology offer different perspectives on this matter: the “Arousal” theory suggests that being exposed to violent content increases arousal levels and subsequently results in aggression; the “Social Learning” theory posits that individuals acquire aggressive behaviors by observing and imitating what they see on TV; the “Disinhibition” theory argues that watching violent content can diminish inhibitions against engaging in aggressive acts; and finally, the “Aggression Reduction” theory proposes that viewing violent shows actually helps release built-up aggression and reduces overall aggressiveness.

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In contrast to these theories are arguments suggesting that children who already possess a predisposition towards aggression are more likely to be drawn towards violent programming.

According to the theory of “Arousal,” television violence can increase aggression because it stimulates and excites viewers.

According to the theory of “Social Learning,” children learn new behaviors by observing others. This theory suggests that when children see fictional characters being glorified or rewarded for violent actions on TV, they not only learn those behaviors but also become more likely to imitate them later on.

The theory of “Disinhibition” proposes that television violence can increase interpersonal aggression in certain situations by weakening the inhibitions against such behaviors. Conversely, the perspective of “Aggression Reduction” argues that exposure to television violence can decrease subsequent aggression under specific conditions.

Children typically view approximately 1,456 hours of television per year, equating to around 28 hours per week. This amounts to children witnessing about 8,000 murders on TV by the time they finish elementary school. Surprisingly, cartoons exhibit the highest level of violence, with an average of roughly 18 aggressive acts per hour. Recent evidence indicates that by age twelve, the average child would have observed 100,000 acts of violence on television.

In comparison to other TV shows, children’s programs are less likely to depict the long-term negative consequences resulting from violence. Kids who watch shows featuring realistic, repetitive or unpunished violence are more susceptible to imitating such behavior. Only four percent of violent programming has an anti-violent theme and approximately five or six violent incidents occur per hour in eight out of every ten shows. However, it is important to note that television violence is usually implicit and not graphically depicted.

A survey conducted by U.S. News and UCLA found that violence is present in 44% of shows on network stations, 59% on basic cable, and a staggering 85% on premium channels like HBO and ShowTime. The survey also showed that 45% of Hollywood elites believe there has been a decline in the overall quality of TV programming over the past decade. It is worth noting that there is limited evidence indicating that violence plays a role in the popularity of these programs.

The portrayal of violence on television contributes to the prevalence of crime and violence in America, as researchers have found that it has an immediate impact on children’s behavior. For example, a five-year-old boy watched an episode of Beavis and Butt-Head and proceeded to set his house on fire, resulting in the death of his two-year-old sister. Additionally, exposure to TV violence can also have long-term effects. Studies indicate that it leads to increased aggression, distorted attitudes, and desensitization towards violence in children.

Children who regularly watch shows with realistic and frequently repeated acts of violence without consequences are more likely to imitate what they see. Social scientists widely agree that television violence increases the likelihood of real-life aggression among certain viewers. This type of violence serves as a behavioral model, particularly for children, posing potential dangers. Children who spend their after-school hours alone due to their parents’ work are more susceptible to learning behaviors from television rather than their parents.

A study conducted by Leonard Earon in 1960 in Hudson, New York found that third-grade children who watched a significant amount of television displayed more violent behavior. The study also revealed that exposure to violent TV shows at a young age increased the likelihood of trouble during teenage years, especially at nineteen. A follow-up when these individuals reached thirty years old showed that those who were more aggressive at eight years old continued to exhibit aggression even at thirty. Additionally, this group had a higher number of criminal convictions and more severe convictions, as well as an increased frequency of traffic violations and DUI arrests. Their aggression was also evident in their homes, with their own children displaying aggressive tendencies.

At Stanford University in the mid-1950s, scientist Albert Van Buera conducted an experiment where children watched a video showing someone attacking a plastic doll. Subsequently, the children were placed in a room with a similar doll and imitated the behavior they had seen in the video. Van Buera believed this experiment demonstrated how violent images can incite actual acts of violence.

Television has a major impact on children’s development, both positively and negatively. It serves as an important educational tool by presenting various role models for children to imitate and providing them with abundant information. However, it is crucial to limit children’s exposure to violence in movies, television shows, and news programs.

Works Cited

Open Questions on the Correlation between TV & Violence
Jonathan Vos Post
(1995): 31 pages online
Internet March 12, 1995

New Studies on Television Violence & their significance for the kid’s TV Debate
Center for Education Priorities (1996): 3 pages online
Internet February 1996

Viewing Violence
Madeline Levine
Doubleday, 1996

Does TV Kill? PBS, Frontline Documentary Consortium of Public television stations from 1984 to 1992. Print materials published by PBS in 1992.

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Media Violence: Television Violence Increases Aggression. (2018, Jun 25). Retrieved from

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