Television Violence and Children’s Aggressiveness


In the modern world, mass media plays a vital role in spreading crucial socio-cultural information to the public, including children and adolescents. Television has been a fundamental tool in mass media due to its audio and visual capabilities (Rosenkoetter et al., 2009). Statistics have shown that the average American child and adolescent spends at least 3-5 hours on television, with 20 violent behaviors shown per hour (Wormwood et al., 2019). Society is shaped by cultural and moral values, which include the content watched. From a psychological standpoint, the early and middle stages of a child’s development are crucial in forming a cognitive, physical, and social framework (Huesmann & Eron 2016). Through the TV, a child learns vocabulary, develops diverse interests, and gets inspired in specific ways. Therefore, violent TV programs contribute to unwanted adverse outcomes in children and adolescents’ cognitive and general psychological development, as shown by Huesmann and Eron (2016). People learn through observance and as concepts register in the mind, practicing them becomes inevitable. This scientific study is important to the sociology of media because it focuses on understanding the role of mass media in creating adverse behavioral outcomes in children and adolescents (Carter & Weaver, 2003). Violence-themed TV shows have distorted children’s psychosocial behavior contributing to the high levels of violence among juveniles.

Impact of Mass Media Violence on Youth

Parents, teachers, politicians, and mental health practitioners have wanted to know about the effect of television programs, especially on children, ever since the invention of television. The depiction of violence has been a source of particular concern, particularly in light of psychologist Albert Bandura’s work on social learning and children’s propensity to mimic what they see (Alia-Klein et al., 2014). The duration spent on TV and the content watched shape a child’s psychology and influence their behavior. The effect of TV violence on children can be categorized into four main types: aggressor, bystander, victim, and appetite effects.

The Aggressor, Appetite, Bystander, and Victim Effects

TV violence is portrayed as a fantastic and enjoyable way of life. When children spend hours watching violence-intensive programs, they tend to find it exciting. According to Etchells et al. (2016), expressive aggression is the portrayal of violent acts because they bring joy to the doer. This effect is related to the second most significant impact: the appetite effect. Mass violence is characterized by an insatiable desire for more violent acts. Children and adolescents develop a sense that one violent act leads to another simply because they are driven by the excitement derived from it (Etchells et al., 2016). For example, juvenile serial killers are motivated by the joy of eliminating each person on their kill list because they believe those people deserve to die. While most adolescents tend to act on their perceptions of violence, some become insensitive to other’s pain or develop the victim effect. It is common to find children cheering as two parties fight or just walking away from a fight without making any effort to stop the violence because they have developed the bystander effect. A rare group of children develops fear from watching violent TV shows (Carter & Weaver, 2003). They grow up fearing that something bad might happen to them, limiting their social interactions.

The Correlation between Television Violence and Aggressiveness in Children

There is a significant connection between the level of aggression in children and TV violence. The research article by Etchells et al. (2016) discusses the negative impact of the exposure to violent acts displayed on mass media tools, TV, and the creation of adverse psychological behavior, aggressiveness among the children. According to Agarwal (2018), it is recommended that guardians and parents monitor the TV that their children are being exposed to since it may result in adverse behavioral outcomes in the children’s adulthood stage. Huesmann (2007) shares information on the psychological theories that explain the relationship between the violence displayed in the electronic media and the development of adverse behavior among children. Huesmann (2007) claims that cognitive abilities are affected, and social skills are compromised, resulting in unfavorable behavioral outcomes demonstrated by adolescents’ aggression.

The recent expansions of violence-themed TV shows can lead to an increase in aggressive behavior in children. The study done by Huesmann and Eron (2016) presents a new stance on investigative research of the impact that mass media’s violence-themed programming has on children and adolescents’ psychological behavior. In the study, the authors believe that children who had an early exposure to violence on TV have a high possibility of engaging in violent acts as an adult. The results from the survey by Huesmann and Enron (2016) have a lot in common with the research findings by Etchells et al. (2016), who address the impact of media violence on depression and conduct disorder.

TV’s influence on children’s psychology is not limited to the aired programs. It has become a channel for live games similar to those played on computers. Most video games have some elements of violence, and as children spend many hours on the game, they are separated from reality and made a part of the incidences in the game (Cardwell, 2013). This explains why many teenagers have been obsessed with football to the extent of committing suicide when their preferred team losses a match. The behavior developed by children is carried on to adulthood, explaining the high rates of violence, murder, suicide, and armed robbery.


Although many researchers have focused on the negative effects of TV violence on children, little effort has been paid to the different personality traits that influence behavior. According to research done by Alia-Klein et al. (2014), the reaction to media violence is dependent on the beholder’s brain. According to their findings, the reaction to violent content is based on personality traits rather than the content. People with a propensity for physical violence will respond with higher levels of aggressiveness than those without. Normally aggressive individuals’ glucose levels and systolic blood pressure were measured and compared with those of non-aggressive persons. The results showed that normally aggressive persons were less nervous and upset, with a significant decline in their systolic blood pressure (Alia-Klein et al., 2014). Individual variations in trait aggression are closely linked to brain, behavioral, and autonomic reactivity to media violence, according to these findings. This argument should be included in public discussions about the effects of media violence.

The second counter-argument relates to the tone used by the media in violent shows. According to Wormwood et al. (2019), the affective tone used in violent media determines how individuals react to it. Sometimes, the news coverage on certain violent acts influences people to engage in violent acts. For instance, when news coverage portrays an act as inappropriate and heinous, people are likely to condemn it. On the downside, if violent acts such as bombings are given an affective tone that shows them as normal, there is a likelihood of many people appraising and committing such violent acts (Wormwood et al., 2019). Similarly, if children see that the news coverage for a given violent behavior was affective, they may gain an appetite for violence and become aggressive.

Reducing the Adverse Impact of TV-Based Violence on Children’s Aggression

Designing innovative intervention methods to reduce and regulate the rising usage of violence-based TV programming is a strategic move. The study by Rosenkoetter et al. (2009) aimed at creating an intervention method that would be useful in reducing the adverse effects. They relate to the exposure to violence-themed programs on the development of aggressive behavior among adolescents and children. Rosenkoetter et al. (2009) recommend using filter-oriented programming that involves taking out violence-themed shows from the content shown to young children. The study by Wormwood et al. (2019) affirms the need for intervention techniques in reducing aggressive behavior development in children and adolescents. It is possible to put in place some regulatory measures by controlling the use of violent-based programming on TV and general mass media. For example, media houses can limit the

Findings and Analysis

The findings from the research studies demonstrate that aggressive behavior develops in children and adolescents due to the early exposure to violence on TV by showing violence-themed TV programs that adversely influence children’s psychological development. The findings of studies conducted by Huesmann and Eron (2016) show a long-term adverse effect on showing violence-themed programming on TV. Television violence affects adolescents’ psychological well-being leading to the adult stage by displaying violent and aggressive behavior (Agarwal, 2018). The survey findings by Carter and Weaver (2003) and Huesmann and Eron (2016) are very similar based on predicting the outcome of psychological behavior. The relay of violence on the television influences the approach to thought and action in a child leading to negative behavioral patterns are displayed in the children as shown by (Cardwell, 2013). For example, when a child is accustomed to violent shows on TV, they develop a positive attitude towards inflicting pain on others. Such children may grow up with that mentality and become bullies at school and violent parents in the future.


Violent TV programs contribute to adverse cognitive and general psychological development in children and adolescents. Through the findings from the investigative surveys, the research studies conclude that the element of violence in the mass media creates negative psychological behavior shown through aggression in young children and adolescents (Carter & Weaver, 2003). From the research, the adolescents’ aggressive behavior follows up to the adulthood stage, thus limiting the children’s well-being (Anderson et al., 2003). An investigative study by Wormwood et al. (2019) confirms the need for intervention methods in the control of aggressive behavior development in children and adolescents. The idea of controlling the use of violent-based programming on TV is effective because many children will be saved from psychosocial problems associated with TV violence.


From the analysis and review of the various studies, it is important to implement measures to regulate and control the harmful effects of TV violence on creating adverse behavioral and psychological outcomes in children, adolescents, and youth. Thus, intervention techniques are good to remedy the challenge of aggressive behavior development in children. It is appropriate to use filter-oriented programming that involves taking out the violence-themed shows from the content aired to young children. The behavioral outcomes will be successful when the children consume non-violent mass-media programming, as shown in the study findings included in the paper.


Alia-Klein, N., Wang, G., Preston-Campbell, R., Moeller, S., Parvaz, M., & Zhu, W. (2014). Reactions to Media Violence: It’s in the Brain of the Beholder. Plos ONE, 9(9), e107260.

Anderson, C., Berkowitz, L., Donnerstein, E., Huesmann, L., Johnson, J., & Linz, D. (2003). The Influence of Media Violence on Youth. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4(3), 81-110.

Agarwal, V. (2018). Parents Perception of Advertisements Targeted towards Children. Singaporean Journal of Business Economics and Management Studies, 6(4), 8-16. Web.

Cardwell, M. (2013). Video Media–Induced Aggressiveness in Children. Southern Medical Journal, 106(9), 513-517.

Carter, C., & Weaver, K. (2003). Violence and the media (1st ed.). Open University Press.

Etchells, P., Gage, S., Rutherford, A., & Munafò, M. (2016). Prospective investigation of video game use in children and subsequent conduct disorder and depression using data from the Avon longitudinal study of parents and children. PLOS ONE, 11(1), e0147732.

Huesmann, L. (2007). The impact of electronic media violence: Scientific theory and research. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(6), S6-S13.

Huesmann, L. R., & Eron, L. D. (Eds.). (2016). Television and the aggressive child: A cross-national comparison (1st ed.). Routledge.

Rosenkoetter, L., Rosenkoetter, S., & Acock, A. (2009). Television violence: An intervention to reduce its impact on children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30(4), 381-397.

Wormwood, J., Lin, Y., Lynn, S., Barrett, L., & Quigley, K. (2019). Psychological impact of mass violence depends on affective tone of media content. PLOS ONE, 14(4), e0213891.

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