Whenever violence raises its ugly head there is the understandable desire to find a scapegoat, and over the entire course of human history this has often been the entertainment media. In the '50s it was music, in the '70s it was horror movies and from the '80s onwards, the blame has been squarely laid at the feet of video gaming.
However, two new reports from Stetson University researcher Christopher Ferguson dismiss any connection between real-world violence and both interactive and passive entertainment.
The first piece of research focused on movies, with Ferguson looking at murder rates from 1920 to 2005 and comparing them to the frequency of violence in films. No link was found, and Ferguson actually discovered that during the ‘90s — when movie violence was at its height — murder rates actually decreased.
The second report looked at video games, using ESRB data to analyse violent games between the years of 1996 and 2011. As graphics have become more advanced and the on-screen violence more realistic, youth violence this period has actually registered a drop.
Ferguson has commented on the findings, stating that media attacks on games and movies actually mask the true reason behind violent crime:
Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime. There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities, and mental health.
This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value.
What do you make of this research? Do you think this will put an end to the media scaremongering? Let us know with a comment.