Many experts on the subject have postulated down through the years that there is a connection between mass media and the increased prevalence of violence in the streets. Longitudinal research on the subject seems to support this premise, indicating that aggressive habits that are acquired at an early age can lead to violent behavior later in life. After a generation of research, we now know that violence is a learned behavior that comes through cultural factors – but this aggression can also be “unlearned” through the appropriate educational interventions. The list of organizations that agree to this summation of knowledge include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians. After the completion of long term research focusing on the violence evident in television and movies, attention has now recently turned to interactive media – such as video games.
Beginning in 1995, an organization known as the Lion and Lamb Project took action against the marketing of violence to children through television, movies, music, and video games. Founded by Daphne White, a television reporter with over 20 years of experience in issues that involved children and families, the Lion and Lamb Project appeared before Congress to present a joint statement of the six health organizations mentioned above. Signed on July 26, 2000, the statement makes reference to over 1,000 major studies that “point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children.” Announcing that some children are affected more than others, the statement pointed to several ways this connection can negatively influence youngsters:
• Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts. Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume that acts of violence are acceptable behavior.
• Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life. It can decrease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.
• Entertainment violence feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place. Viewing violence increases fear of becoming a victim of violence, with a resultant increase in self-protective behaviors and a mistrust of others.
• Viewing violence may lead to real life violence. Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.
No longer an active project, for several years the organization nevertheless provided parents with information and strategies that could be applied in their homes and neighborhood communities. At the root of its message lay the promotion of peaceful, non-violent child’s play – especially through Violent Toy Trade-Ins and Peaceable Play Days. The group even sponsored a Parent Action Kit that provided guidance in selecting non-violent toys and games, suggestions for helpful books and effective organizations, and tips for resolving family conflict in a peaceable manner.
Toy Trade-Ins involved neighborhood drives during which children could exchange their “violent toys” for “non-violent” alternative toys, or possibly a gift coupon for some other treat. In some instances, the trade-in campaigns employed “Peace Sculptures” that involved an impressive three-tiered monument for display. The bottom layer of the sculptures traditionally included violent toys, the middle layer disassembled violent toys, and the top level non-violent toys. One such sculpture was unveiled at the Capital Children’s Museum in Washington D.C. on Martin Luther King Day (January 17) in the year 2000. The sculpture symbolized the transition from violence to non-violence, as stated insightfully by a caption on the door indicating that Violent Toys Teach Violent Play. Peace Begins With Peaceful Play. The event received national attention and was covered by CNN, NBC, and several other cable stations of that day. The Lion and Lamb Project characterized violent toys as those that “promote violence and aggression as effective and fun, invite children to stage hostile behaviors, and foster the destruction of ‘enemies’.” By contrast, peaceful toys foster the ideals of creation and cooperation, as well as new personal skills that are acquired without the veneration of aggression and the over-emphasis of competition.
In late 1998, influential news media sources – such as the Philadelphia Inquirer – were proclaiming that “with the recent rash of school and workplace shootings, the argument against toys that mimic violence has gained new fervor.” However, in the years since then this interest seems to have diminished considerably, perhaps giving way to other cultural trends in our society that have gained more of our attention. But what could be more important to any culture than the propagation of non-violence and peace? Could the continued prevalence of violence in America, such as the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, be due to years of ignoring the warnings evident in the Lion and Lamb Project? And what about the epidemic of bullying that has been taking place in the United States? Could that also be partially attributed to the role of violent toys and violent play? There is actually one piece of scholarly research that reveals a definite connection between violent video games and an increased disposition toward being a bully. Researchers at the Indiana School of Medicine looked at brain scans of adolescents playing video games, carefully noting that “the participants playing violent games showed increased activity in the parts of the brain associated with emotional arousal and less activity in the parts of the brain that control inhibition, attention and self-control.” This does not mean that a young person playing violent games would go out and commit a violent act, but those conducting the research did caution parents to take note of the strong relationship.
The similarities between bullying and terrorism are very striking and scary, possibly making a statement on the human race. Young males recruited to the ranks of terrorist groups bear many of the same personality deficiencies as do habitual bullies. You might or might not agree with this summation – but no matter what your opinion is on such conjectures, there is no doubt that the propagation of peace in the world has a much better chance when it is taught from childhood. Children of peace will grow up to be brokers of peace, as logic would undoubtedly seem to indicate. We need to recognize the need for peace in this world, and this is one of the biggest reasons a monument dedicated to those that have lost their lives to terrorism is needed. Send a message of non-violence, opposition to bullying, and dedication to peace. Click on the link below and sign the petition to which this website is dedicated.
You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.