The first-ever Surgeon General's report on youth
violence was recently released by Dr. David Satcher, a
Clinton appointee who still holds his position in the
Bush Administration. The report hardly made a ripple
in the public debate, but what caught my attention was
the press reports regarding what wasn't in the report,
rather than what was.
In a press conference when the report was
released, Dr. Satcher was asked about media violence,
and he responded that the media is not a major
influence on youth violence. As someone who has read
dozens of studies and reports about the impact of
media violence on children and society, I was
surprised to hear this. It sounded eerily like a
recent report on ABC's 20/20 claiming that media
violence does not cause violence and may actually be
good for kids.
But what about the voluminous stack of research
reports on the impact of media violence on youth? When
a TV news magazine claims that TV violence is not
dangerous, I don't take it too seriously, but the
Surgeon General's report was a different matter.
importantly, I wondered how parents and others would
respond to the "news." This article takes a careful
look at the new report, the 20/20 story, and the
research on media violence, and tries to figure out
what is going on.
On ABC, Jonathan Freedman, a psychology professor
at Toronto University who happens to receive funding
from the Motion Picture Association of America,
claimed that research does not support the notion that
media violence causes aggression. He trashes reports
by the American Psychological Association, the
American Academy of Pediatrics, and others that claim
that more than 1,000 studies prove the case against
media violence, saying: "There aren't over a thousand
studies. There are about 200 studies, give or take...