Free Press: Violent Content Regulation
HISTORIC BACKGROUND OF THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH BY THE MEDIA
Before the First World War, Americans took matters to do with freedom of speech lightly. The first amendment, adopted in the year 1791, provided for freedoms of expression and religion. The freedom of expression was a compound of various sub-freedoms such as the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of press, freedom of association, freedom of belief among others. The Supreme Court is the institution charged of interpreting to what extent these rights apply. Freedom of speech accorded to the press and known as the freedom of press allows individuals to express themselves through different channels such as publications is a key component of the media and has continued to evolve. Prior to the World War one, the government censorship of information even amidst the first amendment was common. In fact, a number of years after the passing of the First Amendment which guaranteed for the freedom of press among other things, several newspapers editors were imprisoned by the Federalists on grounds that they had criticized the government. An anti-slavery editor by the name of Elijah Lovejoy was killed by slavery supporters who went as far as prohibiting congress members from discussing slavery matters in the House of Representatives. After World War one however, censorship was retaliated against and the civil liberties movement became vocal in championing for the right for free speech. In the 1794 words of James Madison,
“The censorial power is in the people over the Government and not in the Government over the people” (xi).
Overtime, the channels for free press have evolved as a result of technological advancement. While this advancement is good, it has led to a wide variety of easily accessible information some of which has negative implications to children and young adults. Children and young adults still at the developmental stages of their lives are being influenced behaviorally by the great amount on violent content in the media. For this reason, regulation of content in the media is a vital component of legislation as it has vital implications on the personalities being raised in any given society.
WHY WE SHOULD CENSOR THE MEDIA
Recent statistics indicate that there is an escalation in the levels of violence by young men and this has been attributed to the fact that the electronic media has been instrumental in conveying messages that are culprit in the reinforcement of violent behavior among members of this age group. This shocking fact alone should signify the importance and urgency of implementation of content regulatory mechanisms that should be put in place in order to curb further destruction.
HOW CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS LEARN VIOLENT BEHAVIOR FROM THE MEDIA
Social violence stems from violence experienced by an individual in their own family. It has been noted that the violent behavior displayed by an adult was learned in their families during their own experiences during childhood (Wagner & Wagner 1). The violent pattern acquired is then transmitted to the next generation from where the cycle continues (Wagner & Wagner 2). When observed through the media, this violent behavior acts as reinforcement to those children who come from families where violent behavior is the norm. This is contrary to children raised in non-violent homes because unlike their counterparts, they don’t get any reinforcement to engage in violent behavior. Instead, they are influenced to view the world from a negative angle and foresee it to be more dangerous than it really is.
It has been scientifically proven that there is a connection between violent behavior displayed and media violence. The social learning theory postulates that children learn through observation and imitation. Therefore, violent behaviors and attitudes are learned through imitation of a model who exhibits such behavior. In addition, scientific findings show that the most influential determinant of violent behavior is prior exposure to violence.
Developing children, those under the age of eight to be precise, are immature mentally and rarely can tell right from wrong. They have not yet attained that level of rationality that enables people distinguish what is real and what is not, an important aspect that enables adults to sieve what they can acquire from what they observe in the media. Unfortunately, this kind of higher reasoning takes about twenty years to develop placing children and young adults in a risky position as they have no control over what they learn. They will therefore basically learn from what they observe and imitate and try out what they have seen. Therefore, if constantly exposed to hostile and violent environment, a child will exhibit violent and hostile behavior because they think other people will behave in the same manner towards them.
For the reasons above, it is our responsibility as a society, to safeguard our children and their futures and not leave such intricate responsibilities to the media which is only out to make profits and doesn’t have their best interests at heart.
Conrad, Mark. “The new paradigm for American broadcasting – changing the content
regulation regimen in the age of new media.” International Review of Law, Computers & Technology24.3(2010) 241-249. Web.
Finan, Christopher. From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free
Speech in America. Boston: Beacon Press, 2007. Web.
Wagner, Jan. & Wagner, Mirabi. Should We Censor Violence in the Media?