I know I haven't been around in a while, but this is one of those subjects I always have to chime in on. I was surfing blogs I've been meaning to catch up on and I came across a well written post at Red Stapler. Go on over and give it a quick read.
I have more experience with real life violence than I could fit into this one little post. I was abused as a child, tormented physically and mentally by school yard bullies, got swept up into violent fights in high school and saw the aftermath of countless violent acts. When I was fifteen the little boy who lived next door to my aunt found his father's gun and shot himself in the head while playing with it. His mother and grandmother were downstairs, but because the stereo was on all they heard was a loud "bang" and thought he had fallen down. They didn't find him for two hours. I helped clean up the aftermath so the mother wouldn't have to. I know what violence in the real world looks like, feels like, smells like....believe me, it's no television show.
That being said... What your children see on televison, in movies, read in books and hear on the radio doesn't "make" them violent anymore than sex education "makes" teenagers have sex. More and more children are growing up in violent environments. These environments are stimulated by poverty, lack of education and lack of intervention. The increase in violent media is a direct reflection on the situation in our society. Also, just like overexposure to violence at an early age can desensitize a person to it, so can an overexposure to sex, even the "healthy" kind.
Some people are more violent than others. Some people aren't violent at all. Circumstances such as home environment, mental health status and support networks factor into each violent act. You also have to look at things like alcohol and drug usage, boundries set by parents, school or other appropriate interventions. To what extent did these factors influence each given person?
To blanket the entire topic with "violence is everywhere" and then lay it at the feet of popular entertainment ignores the violence children see in their homes, in their schools and even on the nightly news. We TEACH them about war and death. Every night you turn on the television and there it is, staring at you. And the difference is, no matter how you try, you can't tell your child that those people will get up, wash off the fake blood and go home.
For a lot of parents, myself included, the difference between sex and violence in movies is a simple one. Blood and guts in a movie, on televison or in a game can be explained away the same way you teach your children that just because the Roadrunner can run off a cliff, doesn't mean he or she can. It's fake. It's a costume. It's pretend.
You can't say that about sex. You can't look at your teenager and say, "Well I know it LOOKED like he had his tongue in her mouth, but really that was just a camera trick." or " I know it LOOKED like she was naked and he was rubbing her breasts, but that was just pretend."
We should be more worried about the real violence alot of these children encounter everyday than the fantasy images they see. The media saturation is a symptom, not a cause. We should also focus on the fact that although there seem to be a lot of people ranting about how violent our society is, and how the media isn't helping, precious few of us are actually willing to do the one thing that would stem the tide almost immediately. Shut off the television. Don't go to the movie. Put down the trashy magazine. Don't by the next "big thing" they publish. Call the television stations in force and tell them we want them to stop showing such blatant images of death and violence. Very few people ever go beyond the complaining stage.
We all want to be able to bitch about it, but no one wants to upset their own comfort enough to actually do anything about it. It's the new American Way. We complain and complain, but when it gets down to the brass tacks of a situation, we don't ever really do anything about it.