Learned Behaviors Through Media, TV, and Video Games
By: Kelly Beyer, LPC
Science and psychology deem behavior to be a learning occurrence. Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, and Albert Bandura all described the developmental stages of life in detail and although there are slight differences, the ages and stages similarly define what is capable to be learned. Therefore, one could presume television and video game exposure are vehicles for learning new behaviors. The development of a child’s mind plays a large role in determining a child’s outcome in life. Therefore, if media violence has a negative effect, such as gaining aggressive behaviors, then the reversal of said effects are imperative.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a retired Army Ranger, expert in human aggression, and public speaker has written multiple books on war and killing, specifically the psychological aspects. Astonishingly, Grossman has also written books and speaks on media violence being a cause of juveniles murdering being on the rise. Grossman (2000) emphasized statistics indicating this issue is not merely local and due to the lack of restrictive gun laws, in fact every country has one consistent variable, media violence is being broadcast as entertainment for children. Fred Rogers, a television personality and writer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a daily children’s television show on PBS produced an entire week of episodes revolving around “super heroes” not being real in 1979. Fred Rogers reacted to stories being told on the news of children trying to imitate Superman by wearing a cape and jumping from windows or roofs causing serious injuries or death. The epidemic is not new yet understanding the cause still perplexes the masses. The military uses various combat simulators that are based off of violent video games, pilots use flight simulators to learn how to fly, and children have violent video games as murder simulators (Grossman, 2000).
Behaviorists and the general public alike know human behavior is complex and it takes multiple variables to effect change in a person (Anderson, 2016). Learned behavior no matter how small can make a difference in a person but those behaviors can also be eliminated. However, that can only occur if specific behaviors are definitively associated with specific means of learning. Grossman (2000) cited children are able to distinguish occurrences on television at about eighteen months. Differentiating between fantasy and reality does not occur until a child reaches six or seven years old (Grossman, 2000). The result of children watching violence at such a young age equates to the desensitization and normalizing of aggressive behavior. Grossman (2000) cited there was a double in murder rates within a fifteen-year span, explaining this occurred because that was how long it took for three to five year olds to reach the prime crime age. The evidence is shocking but teaching prosocial behaviors can have countering effects of media violence. Empathy skills are prosocial behaviors easily learned. Empathy is seeing something from another’s perspective, understanding why and how someone interprets or responds. Improving these skills can be as easy as reading fictional and/or biographical stories. Both types of stories allow you see a story from someone else’s perspective. Through various counseling treatment approaches prosocial behaviors can be increased and the negative effects of external sources can be reduced or even eliminated.
Anderson, Craig A,M.A., PhD. (2016). Media violence effects on children, adolescents and young adults. Health Progress, 97(4), 59-62. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lewisu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest- com.ezproxy.lewisu.edu/docview/1804472189?accountid=12073
Grossman, D. (2000). Teaching kids to kill. National Forum, 80(4), 10-14. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lewisu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest- com.ezproxy.lewisu.edu/docview/235198795?accountid=12073
(n.d.). Retrieved February 29, 2020, from https://www.misterrogers.org/episode-playlist/batch-4- 1466147-1468-1469-1470/