Over the years, crime rates amongst young offenders have been on the increase. These alarming trends have instigated many research studies which endeavor to demystify what causes young people to commit such serious criminal offenses like murder, rape, robbery with violence and substance use related crimes. Juvenile offenders are often characterized by a wide array of antisocial behaviors which are reflective of inherent negative social and individual attitudes in the young people.
These antisocial behaviors are cultivated from early childhood or acquired during the developmental stages of young people. Antisocial behaviors such as hyperactivity, psychopathy and associations with violence are characteristic of young criminal offenders. These behaviors emerge from both individual and social factors illustrated by Giller, Hagell and Rutter (1998:116) who showcases that juvenile homicidal acts are carried out mostly by young people from violent family backgrounds. Therefore, violence is quite central to shaping attitudes of young serious crime offenders.
It is from here that the media plays a major role in similarly shaping these young people’s crimes. Mass media in modern times is dominated highly by violent and antisocial behavior content and considering the increased interactions between young people and the media it has become an aspect of concern. This paper seeks to display how the media shapes attitudes of young serious criminal offenders. The media is partly responsible for influencing violent behavior through violent media content such as films, video games and other forms of popular culture.
Consequences of this increased violent content in the media include the demonization of children as evil, misogyny, reflection of criminals as icons and the depiction of distress and crime as pleasurable. These factors showcase a reversal of ordinary beliefs which occurs as young people construct new attitudes about violence and crime. Good and Nichols (2004:37) indicates that young people in today’s society are uncontrollably immersed in the media. In almost all households in the UK, young people have access to mass media such as radio, CD players, Television, computers and video game systems.
The use of these media is a normal daily activity among young people and even those who do not have them in their households have access to their friends’. The increased use of the media by young people is credited to lack of other socializing elements in these young peoples’ lives. As such, the media acts as a socializing factor. In fact, most young people who are constantly indulged in interacting with these forms of media have very few social relationships. Although such activities as watching TV programs or watching films can be informative and helpful to young people the media is rarely associated with such positive effects.
The focus is mostly on its negative effects on these young people’s mindsets, behaviors and attitudes. Violence is rampant in entertainment forms such as TV programs, movies, cartoons and video games and in non entertainment forms like news. As young people engage in these entertainment forms there are various mechanisms which occur and shift their attitudes towards more criminal and violent behaviors. Attitudes towards violence are the direct influence for aggressive behaviors among young serious criminal offenders while the media serves as a secondary influence which cultivates these attitudes.
These attitudes are often guided by an individual’s internal value systems and they consequently guide young people’s social beliefs and values. Most altered beliefs include the beliefs that violence is fundamental to accomplishing individual goals, that it is socially acceptable and enjoyable. As such, the role of the media is engraved in their capacity to encourage these beliefs amongst young people. Deviant and crime news mostly dominate media content in modern times.
Reiner (2006:307) showcases that the crime news patterns are consistent on an almost every day basis. In a household where young people are exposed to these criminal activities in news there is a likelihood of young people developing nonchalant attitudes towards crime. These nonchalant attitudes are as a result of desensitization by the media. Cantor (2000:2) explains that desensitization occurs when a young person’s emotional reaction towards crime is repeatedly evoked in circumstances in which the emotional response to the crime is irrelevant.
The continuous exposure of young people to such violence including hostilities, injuries and graphic crimes which would have initially invoked strong emotions causes the reduction of these emotions towards the depiction of violence and crime. This desensitization effect is evident in such situations when young people hesitate to intervene in a violent dispute and even seem amused by such situations. This desensitization can in the worst case scenarios prompt young people to seek and engage in serious crime offenses like homicide and sexual offenses.