There is always a possibility that the way crime is portrayed in the media could have a side effect on those who are consuming it. Depending on what kind of crime is portrayed, in what fashion, and through what kind of medium, it might instigate others to go out and copycat what they were exposed to. Alternatively, it might stay deep in their psyche and at one point in time, it might prompt them to commit some kind of a crime.
However, even if it is possible that consuming any kind of crime portrayal through the media could raise the rate of aggressive behavior, in most studies made there are other factors that will have to come together to incite individuals to engage in any kind criminal behavior. This means, in the big majority of cases, triggering criminal behavior out of the blue by a simple exposure to a media coverage that portrays crime is unlikely.
Yet it is not possible to rule out such incidents even if there are researchers such as Freedman (1994) who had gone to a considerable length to show that there is no correlation between the way the media portrays crime and those who commit crime. Nevertheless, some studies have demonstrated that there is some sort of a correlation that does not necessarily have to be subtle.
One of the mediums that is heavily involved and is playing a leading role in depicting and portraying crime is television simply because in any of the advanced nations that includes Australia, the number of households that have television at their disposal could be close to 98 percent, as it is evidenced in the case the U. S. Young children, starting from age three could be exposed to television, almost 50 percent of them having their own television in their room, where the number of hours they are watching TV could be overwhelmingly high, and in most cases parental control and guidance could be absent.
Even if it is difficult to show a direct cause-and-effect correlation, it is possible to generalize to a certain extent that exposing oneself to the crime that is portrayed in mediums such as TV, movies, and lately videos, games, and pornography could have an influence on some that will lead to subsequent aggressive behavior at some point in time. Researchers point out that even if the reality tends to be as it was discussed when studying crime and criminal act and the portrayal of crime in the various mediums, there are other factors that will have to be taken into consideration that have a decisive direct impact on the outcome.
Variables such as the kind of material used and how it was used, the age and sex of those who are consuming the material, the racial and socioeconomic background, their education level, the community and the country they live in, all come into play in determining on how they react to what they are exposed to through the media that could be covering any kind of crime genre.
These are the factors that will enable all individuals who are exposed to media portrayal of crime to decide the good and bad, the reality and fantasy, the harmful and the illegal ones, which crimes if caught in the act will require to be accountable for, and the kind of legal reprisal they should expect for engaging in anyone of them. The reality is, according to statistics it is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that it is a small percentage of the general population that will develop an aggressive behavior after being exposed to media portrayal of crime and goes out and act on it committing a crime.
It had been also stated that there are many other factors that will have to come together to trigger such criminal behavior. What this leads to is according to the researchers, the portrayal of crime in the media might exasperate those who were already violent because of other factors and what they encounter in the media will exasperate what they were already involved in, which means the chance that the media portrayal of crime converting other peaceful individuals into aggressive ones is low, even if it might not be dismissed outright.
Another way of looking at it might be those who already have aggressive behavior might be on the lookout for any media portrayal that has to do with aggressive behavior and crime in general. Therefore, one measure to take might be at least it is possible to intervene in children’s behavior through parents and school programs at an early stage as they are the ones who are at risk, because according to the studies, the effect of being exposed to media portrayal of crime could have a short or long term effect.
It will affect grownups who are already bent into criminal activity by bolstering their criminal caprice while in case of children it will take a long time to take effect, simply because some of the other factors will have to be blended together in order to trigger the final aggressive behavior. The factors that will go hand-in-hand with being exposed to media crime portrayal usually start early on and it might not be necessary that all of them should be prevalent.
The starting point for most problems is the family where if there is violence, abuse, substance abuse, criminal activity that involves the member of the family or in the neighborhood, poverty, any kind of health problem chronic or otherwise that will affect the normal functioning of the family, education and lack of it, disadvantaged socioeconomic background, and cultural fallout will all aggravate the situation more. It is enough here to mention that there had been two groups of researchers who have come public with their findings and both have different views, and they are not the only ones involved.
Freedman had stated vividly and exhaustively that there is no evidence in his research and finding that, for example, watching violent TV leads to an aggression. What it means is there will have to be other factors that will have to come together in order to create the aggressive behavior, and according to him someone’s watching a violent show on TV, or watching pornography, for example, that portrays women in a bad light, or playing those violent videos or computer games will not transform “everyone” into aggressors.
That is where the subtle difference surfaces and in the same year Paik and Comstock (1994) came up with their findings that involved 217 studies and concluded that there is enough suggestion that aggressive behavior could be formed after watching violent and erotica movies on TV or elsewhere.
Eron (1995) had gone a bit further when he added the portrayal of crime in the media is not the only factor and according to him aggression is the outcome of the coming together of more medical factors on top of what were mentioned and he stated that genetic, prenatal, physiological, neurological, and environmental factors also have a role to play in bringing about an aggressive and violent behavior. Even if some of it might require some scientific proof, as a social science there had been a vast study made on it.
In addition to that, Comstock & Paik (1994) and Murray (1994) have elaborated on various variables that they believe could contribute to viewers’ acceptance of what they expose themselves to. It does not matter whether it is in the movies or in real life incident if a deviant behavior is not punished, the signal it will send out for those who are watching is it is normal and acceptable, and when such an incident comes into existence its acceptability is engrained in the psyche of the victims. Especially young people could be vulnerable to such skewed judgement and engage in a deviant behavior.
On the other hand, if the viewer somehow comes to believe that the portrayal is justifiable there will not be a red flag when engaging in a deviant behavior in real life, at one point in the future. This is also possible especially for those who are involved with some kind of unbalanced behavior and if there is no sign or remorse about what took place, or some kind of damage is inflicted on someone, or someone had to encounter legal consequences, the signal sent will be such a behavior, even if it is aggressive is tolerable if not down right acceptable, which will bring reluctance and resignation while committing such a criminal act.
There is also a possibility of identifying with the villain because what was portrayed had a direct relevance to what is taking place in real life, and that will legitimize the criminal act and the involved individual will find it easy to commit a similar crime. Furthermore, in a case where the individuals involved had been aggressive in real life, when encountering media portrayal of such act, it could trigger a violent behavior and can use it as an excuse.
This one could be dangerous because it could arouse the perpetrator and this is mostly applicable in sexual crimes where the urge to do what the perpetrator viewed could become irresistible. Another possibility addressed was if the involved individual being exposed to the media crime portrayal had been watching violence and if the individual is driven to the point of frustration somehow, it is possible that the individual could act out on whoever is causing the frustration.
Some individuals would want to copycat what they saw because they had a grudge and it had happened many times where deliberate and calculated crimes had been committed depicting something viewed through the media. Or if there is no one criminalizing certain acts on one hand and on the other harmonizing certain conflicts, some individuals could be disoriented and find it difficult to evaluate and judge what they are exposed to, which could prompt them to make the wrong decision.
When we look at the media and the various mediums that makes it up, television is the major medium that has mass appeal as well as every household almost has one set, the average figure for Australians being 21 hours per week. This means when compared with other mediums such as video, any portrayal of crime that takes place on TV reaches a much wider audience, and has powerful influence on how people interpret certain happenings. It has influential power in forming opinion and always has to come up with something that is very useful and palatable to society.
Since the broadcasting is undertaken commercially, what is behind the motives of the programming is the rating, which is what generates income because it is advertisers who are the source of the income generated by the majority members of the media, and because of that they have to implement a balancing act. What impacts their decision-making when they choose their shows is rating more than anything else and the reason, for example, why the shows are full of violence is simply because it is action flicks that attract viewers regardless of their effect on the audience.
Since a big majority of the viewers are taking the programs as a means of entertainment and at times it could be informative and educational, there is no harm done in lining up programs that are depicting crime, even if the understanding that a few would succumb for it the wrong way is there. There are agencies, private as well as governmental, whose job is to educate vulnerable viewers as to how they should deal with what they are exposed to, and these kinds of establishments could stand to get help from the public purse, as well as private donors that will include the media conglomerates.
The newscast also have a similar but a more weighty effect because what is portrayed in the news is, more or less, what is taking place in real life instead of fantasy or someone’s imagination. All the criminal activities that are taking place around the world, which include horrifying terrorist acts are reaching million of homes by the minute and they have an unwarranted side effect on the viewers where some of them had been a subject of copycat and there is not much to be done about it since the general public wants to be informed about what takes place around since there are many decisions that are made based on that.
Through such a process there might be some victims who will be caught up in a criminal act that they would be led into because of what they had been watching from the news cast, but what is good about it is their number is small and it is possible to do something abut them. Videos on the other hand could be more harmful even if their design and execution has to be according certain guidelines. Within such a guideline what they avail could still be more obtrusive and they are available from a public outlet.
Whatever means is used they can be obtained individually where individual discretion is involved and that gives the producers some kind of a tacit license to do whatever they like and most of them are unacceptable for normal and family viewing. They are, in fact, rated and they have “X” and “R” ratings depending on what they are depicting telling their viewers they are out of the ordinary set up. This means they could be a source with a much worse harm than can be had from viewing TV and no one has any kind of control over them since they are available over the Internet or they can be purchased or rented from various sources.
They could be viewed on one’s allocated time without anyone knowing, which means there is no opposition coming from any source about the material where it is only the conscience of the individual that is the judge. One of the mainstay of video is pornography that could be as explicit as the producers want it to be and many people can have access to it, among them there will be some who would want to experiment on some of the scene they have watched and that is when things could get complicated.
The other medium that has become a huge source of violent crime is video game that has become the mainstay of the youth who are playing it for a prolonged period. The deadliness of such games is they involve the players into performing so many atrocious acts on the screen although the way it is portrayed is there is always a battle between good and bad, and always the players are allowed to play the good role.
However, since there is a lot of aggressive killing and destruction taking place it is possible to say that, at the end it leaves the players in a highly charged and aggressive mood that could spiral out of control where some atrocious acts could be performed. In addition to the violence, there is also sexual act involved. There is some kind of a classification for these games according to reports and some percentage of them were only fit for those 15 years old or above, where there were some that were refused classification, but the majority of them, up to 80 percent were fit for anyone.
If there had been any indirect side effect created by the media portraying of crime, it is fear among the majority of those who come to know what goes on in their own community.  It is always possible to say that those who are in charge of the various media outlets could make it part of their priority to inform viewers about what goes on around them so that they can take precautions and that is always part of being a good corporate citizen, and that is how they are judged and rated.
Hence, through such a process when the crime that is reported is outside of the community of the viewers they would compare their situation with the communities where the crimes occur and if they find their community safe they take some comfort from it (Liska and Baccaglini, 1990). Other factors that add to the fear syndrome are heavy viewing of crime related coverage and the fact that members of the audience might have had a first hand experience ( Gerbner, 1980).
Mostly when news concerning being sexually assaulted, getting beaten up, mugged, stubbed or being shot are presented, the fear factor will be if the possibility they would be the next victim is there, no matter where they get the news from. The media portrayal of crime for those who will not interpret it the wrong way, what it will do to them is it could make them more aware of their surrounding and if they are living in an area where there is a high rate of crime it might affect them somehow, because there are certain actions fear might make them do or might make them avoid doing.
This means, in this regard, the portrayal of crime in the media, especially in the news could have both a negative and positive effect, and maybe it might be true to say that TV shows might focus on the ratings most of the time, yet they have to depict something believable, hence it would at least make viewers aware of the existence of such possibilities.
Nevertheless, news broadcasting is different because the broadcast is something that has taken place in real time, which means they could be worried that they could be victims and that could lead them to do certain things and broadcasting is the main news source for the majority of the people (Surette, 1998). Accordingly, when the fear has a positive effect it will make people take the necessary precautions, whether to themselves or to their property, the end result being it avails them some advantage.
However, when the knowledge of the existence of a crime in one’s community has a negative impact the outcome will be both psychological and physical where they will be fear-ridden to the point where it could affect their quality of life. Some of the aftermath of the negative effect of fear could be a change in lifestyle because there are going to be activities people would not want to engage in, in order to avoid getting harmed, and that might affect their quality of life.
Their confidence could also suffer because they are fear-ridden and if anyone is zeroing on vulnerability they could easily be targets and their chance of defending themselves if something happens to them could suffer a compromise. The other time there will be a problem is when the media sensationalizes a news item because such news sells and the media might choose to highlight the bad side only without highlighting some of the good achievement made in that area.
Because if the news report only talks about frequent mugging and not the effort underwent to curtail it, those who get the news could be affected adversely, because they would think that they are helpless victims until they know there is help out there. Therefore, whether it is intentionally or otherwise, what the media broadcasts would alert others and the only time it will have a negative side effect on them is if it is blown out of proportion to create some kind sensationalized side effect and if it is unbalanced.
When that is the case, the community might have to step up its effort to intervene and educate the public. They can do that through the same medium or through whatever means is available at their disposal, because it had been stated that the commercial media is always caught up in an act of balancing where the rating will have to be given the priority. It is the neutral community that could spot the damage done in such pursuit and they can add what is going missing by demonstrating that there had been positive results, as well as fortified efforts to fight crime.
That will put the members of the particular community at peace in such a way that they will go on with their life doing what they are doing without any fear. The same applies if people’s property is threatened and all they have to know is there are measures that are being taken to safeguard it and if they have to play a part they will have to be informed too. The conclusion is government run media are few and cannot cover the whole spectrum, which means the privately run media have a major role to play and there is the balancing act between commercialism and doing a responsible job.
However, since they are licensed by governments they are regulated, which means there is a guideline they have to follow, and on top of that the public rates their service on a regular basis. Behind the scene there might be an effort to see some kind of positive result in a given community, because unless a community is functioning normally everyone’s day-to-day life could be affected negatively, hence since the media is part of the community it has to play various positive roles hand-in-hand with the other stakeholders to get a certain positive outcome, whatever it might be.
In the case mentioned above, the media’s portrayal of crime on an ongoing basis will educate the general public about the dangers that is prevalent in their community or around the world, while at the same time it might have some negative side effect where a few misguided individuals could interpret what is being presented the wrong way and could cause harm or damage. However, such incidents tend to be easier to control than depriving the public the awareness it might require and through such a process it is possible to achieve and accomplish a lot. REFERENCE Comstock, G. & Paik, H.
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