Media influence is a nuanced issue that may never be settled

The contested field of violent video games: Research roundup, Journalist’s Resource, March 28, 2013

A very valuable look at the state of play involving violence and the media and its effects on kids.

As the author rightly points out, most issues in social science are never truly “settled” in the same way that Newton’s three laws or Einstein’s law of relativity have become settled laws of physics. Rather, he declares that the prevailing theory is that media violence does have negative impacts on children’s proclivity toward violence.

He then cites some of the major articles, pro and con. What needs to be looked at carefully is nuance here. For instance, some of the “naysayers” point out that, relative to other variables, like socioeconomic class, and mental illness, playing hours of violent video games is not as problematic or weighty in its effect.

But what is also inherent in the “prevailing” point of view, namely that violent media is causal in the development of violence in kids, is the researchers then building on this point of view and moving the research further ahead into other questions, like whether certain kids, maybe ones suffering from mental illness or living under harsh socioeconomic circumstances, are more likely to incorporate violence from the media more readily than other children into their identities and actions.

This is a point at which the prevailing side and the naysayers may find common ground.