Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?

Yes, repeated exposure to media violence can be desensitizing. But whether kids will become aggressive, antisocial, or unfeeling depends on a lot of factors: the amount, type, and context of the violence; the child's individual temperament and makeup; and the child's environment.

What's troubling is that kids on a typical media diet are exposed to a lot -- estimates are in the tens of thousands -- of graphically violent images and ideas through movies, games, and even advertisements. As children grow up, their brains and bodies crave stimulation, which violent media certainly provides. The combination makes kids, especially those with other risk factors (for example, difficult home environments or emotional challenges), particularly vulnerable to the desensitizing effects of media violence.

The connection is strong enough that the American Academy of Pediatrics and other child advocates recommend that parents severely restrict kids' access to violent media. You can do this by choosing age-appropriate content, co-viewing material that has violence and discussing it, and providing plenty of media with pro-social messages to help ease the effects.

Ask Our Experts
Was this answer helpful?
Sign in or sign up to share your thoughts

Comments

Teen, 13 years old written by Im young-not dumb

No shooting has ever been caused by a video game. Even if a shooter was quoted saying, "Halo made me kill them," it would not have been the fault of Halo. The fault should be on the person whose mind was so twisted and psychopathic that they thought that murder would be ok. We shouldn't be limiting screen time/ choosing what games or movies kids see, we should be talking with them about any depression, bullying, or suicidal thoughts that have occurred in their lives.
Teen, 16 years old written by III

In some ways yes, exposure to all violence could desensitize someone to violence. But a greater question is "is this such a bad thing?" It seems slightly unethical to think but a slow progression of exposure to violence could ease someone into the subject matter. In a professional environment such as law enforcement or health services it is important to keep your cool when surrounded with violence or the aftermaths of such. A hemophobic surgeon would not be able to function. All of us will have to deal with either real life violence or an injury at some point, and with no previous exposure to this, someone would go through a sudden and forced development... which might not be such a bad thing. Sort of like jumping into a cold pool instead of wading in, prolonging the matter. Let your kid play a violent game or watch a scary movie too soon, if you think their ready for it. This promotes getting out of your comfort zone at best and encouraging violence at worst. The Colombine shooting was caused by a student's affixation on Doom. ( a great and violent game) The problem wasn't the game's violence or a youth outside the game's target audience playing. It is violent media used as inspiration for a violent act instead of as entertainment (also premature gun access) If you notice your child enjoys violence a little TOO much you might want to confront them.
Teen, 13 years old written by Im young-not dumb

This is so wrong. That shooting was not caused by the fact that DOOM exists, the shooting was caused by the way that child was raised. Also, kids should never have access to any weapon. Owning a gun is not going to save your family, it will only let your daughter/son become a school shooter or get you arrested for some weird, poorly known law.
Teen, 14 years old written by Carmen Dohmen

I watch a lots of violent films my favorite film is John Wick and I like to watch it and see it but would never kill somebody. I know what real is between fake fighting in movies.
Teen, 15 years old written by FlimFanE

Yes and no, I watch a large amount of violent movies, and yet I can tell the difference from real and fake. So while the violence in movies does not have as much of an effect on me as it did in the past, real world violence is still extremely tragic. It is not so much what people are watching but how mature they are and do they know the difference between movies and reality.
Teen, 14 years old written by SierraG

I think that younger kids, should not be watching movies with a lot of violence in them. This sometimes can cause people to make unwise decisions. But, the older you get, the more violent the movie get. Older people handle violent easier than younger.
Teen, 14 years old written by MoriahD

In my opinion, if it can be helped then children shouldn't always be watching movies and TV with gore and a lot of violence in them. I think this only really goes for young children who aren't mature enough to handle it and are at an age that they are vulnerable and easily influence by their surroundings. Children by the age of fifteen, at the most, should be able to handle it by then unless they have other risk factors as mentioned in the text.
Teen, 13 years old written by mikethespike451

Violence is apart of the real world and might always will! Kids need to learn that violence and gore is a big part in the real world and that it is not pretty nor fun!