Sex And Violence Are Still TV Issues -- And So Is Research About Them

The arguments connecting media violence or suggestive sexual content to real-life actions never seem to end.

First, violence: A group from the National Academy of Sciences told the Obama administration that a "direct relationship" between media exposure and violent acts still doesn't exist -- but that some evidence points to a "significant relationship." Sounds murky at best.

While violence-oriented scripted TV programming and many violent movies have gotten blamed over the years, one area that seemingly gets short-shrift is TV news programming: "ongoing, sensationalized stories about high-profile murders and mass shootings... has not been the subject of systematic research," the group said.



The suggestion is that the effects of childhood exposure to violence in the media is tough to analyze and document. For example, does everyone think about arming themselves with guns and other weaponry from watching violent content? And if not, why not?

Another question concerns sexually themed content: Are the growing instances of "pixilated" or blurred video of nudity not good for society at large -- in particular, young children? If more provocative video content is on the rise, especially on the broadcast networks, what is the result? Perhaps a more prurient society.

In both instances, we are left in a vacuum when it comes to compelling research about the medias effect on behavior.

There is no argument over the growth of all kinds of content on all sorts of platforms. At the same time, content is much more fragmented these days, including that TV news programming. So as we are watching all kinds of stuff in smaller audience groups, it becomes harder to figure out the causes of certain behavior.

3 comments about "Sex And Violence Are Still TV Issues -- And So Is Research About Them".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, June 6, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.

    Journalists only occasionally understand math, or take statistics courses in college, so the word "significant" is often baffling. There are two kinds of significance, statistical and practical. Statistical signifcance means researchers are confident that the finding is real, even if the direct relationship is very tiny. Practical significance has to do with effect size, which never gets mentioned in news stories. Tiny relationships produce tiny effect sizes and tiny practical significance. Most media effects are tiny, albeit statistically significant, which just means violence has a meager effect on human behavior. Mental illness, for example, is a far greater predictor of violence than exposure to media.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, June 6, 2013 at 7:20 p.m.

    Advertising has larger effect sizes on behavior than media violence. Buying is easier to influence than causing mayhem.

  3. Barbara Jacobson from Jacobson Broadcasting Co., June 7, 2013 at 3:28 p.m.

    Isn't it interesting that when the 3 professional storm chasers were killed in Oklahoma within the last week, it was reported that there are so many more "storm chasers" since the "Twister" movie?! So don't say that movies/videos don't affect behavior!! Of course, mental illness encouraged by violent videos plays a very important role in violent crimes --and the HIPAA law is a hinderance. "In 2009, hospital officials cited the HIPAA law for not notifying law enforcement officials that they’d released Mark Becker, a 24-year-old mentally ill Parkersburg man, who then shot and killed Ed Thomas, the football coach at Aplington-Parkersburg(Iowa) High School". Des Moines Register 4/26/13

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