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HomeHEALTHHow does media violence affect children?

How does media violence affect children?

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Adolescence is the time when children are shaping up their minds, learning new things, discovering themselves, and forming perspectives of this world. This time is very crucial when it comes to from which sources your child is learning new things. If not dealt with this situation carefully, it can induce aggressive behaviour, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed in adolescents.

What is media violence?

Have you noticed that after watching a patriotic movie, you feel a sudden surge of nationalism, or after watching a movie that involves terrorists, you feel like anyone around you could be a criminal? That is the degree to which media can impact even an adult mind. Imagine what it would do to a child mind! Media violence takes place through all forms of mass communication like television, video games, movies, news, etcetera that depict the threat to use, the act of using, and consequences of using force. Some, not all, examples of violence and crime on social media include selling drugs, downloading illegal music and videos, harassing or threatening someone, and posting videos of violence online.

Here are some effects of media violence on adolescents:

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1. Aggression and violence 

For at least a brief period after watching or seeing violent media, the person tends to think more aggressively, believes that everyone is hostile to them, and can also directly portray an imitation of the observed behaviour. Hence, online aggression can spill into real-world violence. These short-term effects dissolve pretty quickly. But with repetitive exposure to the same type of media, the behaviour is permanently learned. They start thinking that every conflict can be dealt with aggressive behaviour, which is not at all right. This problem, if not corrected, can also pose an obstacle in their adulthood.

2. Emotional desensitization 

Constant exposure to blood, violence, deaths in media can eventually lead to emotional desensitization towards other people’s misery, pain, and suffering. They get so used to violence that it removes in-built brakes that usually inhibit aggression and violence.

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 3. Screen time

Many studies conducted on adolescents conclude that both nonviolent and violent media contribute to real-world problems like attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, reduction of concentration power, etc. Another emerging problem with media is addiction. This can be video game addiction, internet addiction, and internet/gaming disorder. Research suggests that about 8 per cent of “gamers” are addicted to video games (similar to gambling addiction). These activities interfere with significant aspects of their lives, like interpersonal relationships, school, or work activities. Adolescents should reduce their screen time to 2-3 hours per day.

4. Induces anxiety 

Children around the age of 8 who regularly witness violent acts (screaming, murder, assault, etc.) on TV or movies have difficulty differentiating fantasy and reality. They may become paranoid that such things might happen to them too. This fear can, later on, turn into anxiety and panic attacks. Do not belittle or disregard their fear, instead acknowledge them and reassure children they can be protected from harm and will be safe.

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5. Depression 

Exposure to electronic media may also be one of the factors that influence the development of depression as it cut down the child’s opportunity to acquire protective experiences from their family or peers- that require active social, intellectual, or athletic engagement. Also, it distorts their sleep and optimal development of executive functioning and cognitive process. This distortion can lead to depression. Several studies indicate children’s and adolescents; exposure to real-life violence, either as victims or witnesses, is significantly associated with poor mental health outcomes like depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The fact of the matter is that parents need to become more attentive to their children. Due to the face-paced world we live in, we tend to forget real-life issues in front of us. It is also important to note that just because media has a few disadvantages does not mean that you should snatch away your child’s phone, check every chat they do with their peers, or install a parent monitor. No! You do not want your child to fear you, do you? Instead, try and educate them about right and wrong behaviours, tell them to feel free to reach out to you, make them feel comfortable around you!

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Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Currently head of Department of Holistic Medicine & Wellness at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh is a mental wellness expert with expertise in relationship, lifestyle & stress management. The founder and director of The Mind and Wellness Studio Dr. Rachna Khanna has worked with leading hospitals like Fortis Escorts, Dharamshila Cancer Hospital. Her specialties include stress management, lifestyle management for heart diseases, supportive care for chronically ill patients, work-life balance, parent-child bonding, cancer support care, ante/postnatal care, relationship counselling, pre-marital & marital counselling, adolescent counselling, psychiatric & psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety, insomnia.


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