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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Friday, December 17

www.theory.org.uk Resources: Media Effects

When a friend send me a link to www.theory.org.uk Resources: Media Effects and I knew the friend tended to think that media is good for children, I thought it was "just another article" about how media affects children. I have a habit of not finishing articles like that because, I think I know what they're going to say, and I'm not interested in more of the same. I looked at the introduction and then didn't finish the article. I bookmarked it, though, because I thought that maybe I shouldn't assume I knew what it said and sometime when I wasn't feeling inspired about a particular topic, it could be good to read and think about again.

I'm glad I did because it actually does have something new to say about it.

To explain the problem of violence in society, researchers should begin with that social violence and seek to explain it with reference, quite obviously, to those who engage in it: their identity, background, character and so on. The 'media effects' approach, in this sense, comes at the problem backwards, by starting with the media and then trying to lasso connections from there on to social beings, rather than the other way around.

At this point, I'm thinking, "blah, blah, same old, same old." I'm slightly interested though in how the media effects approach is backwards, but really, I'm not expecting much.

"Criminologists, in their professional attempts to explain crime and violence, consistently turn for explanations not to the mass media but to social factors such as poverty, unemployment, housing, and the behaviour of family and peers. In a study which did start at what I would recognise as the correct end - by interviewing 78 violent teenage offenders and then tracing their behaviour back towards media usage, in comparison with a group of over 500 'ordinary' school pupils of the same age - Hagell & Newburn (1994) found only that the young offenders watched less television and video than their counterparts, had less access to the technology in the first place, had no particular interest in specifically violent programmes, and either enjoyed the same material as non-offending teenagers or were simply uninterested."

Wow! I hadn't realized how the difference in approaches matters. I am surprised by the results a little. I thought that TV likely had NO correlation and certainly didn't "cause" violence.

Even if there were some sort of correlation, it wouldn't be right to treat TV watching as a cause since it could just be an effect caused by the same factors that actually do cause or contribute to people being violent. For example, an uninvolved parent might lead to emotional problems and also leave the child with more time to sit and watch tv. TV watching could simply be a neutral other effect of uninvolved parenting. The results of this study are very interesting. I wonder what explanation there might be for violent teenagers watching less tv.

I think what I've learned from this is to read the wording of things more carefully. A slight shift in wording can significantly change the meaning of something.

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