“8% of kids are playing games at a level where it impacts negatively on their life,” says Dr Warburton.

Many parents and teaching professionals are concerned about the effects of exposing growing children to violent music (rap/hip hop and heavy metal) and violent media (games such as Grand Theft Auto).

“Although media is just one of many influences in our children’s lives, it is a powerful and pervasive force and it’s one that we can do something about, from parenting, to professional practice, to the making of policies and laws,” said Dr Wayne Warbuton.

Dr Wayne Warburton is a psychologist who specialises in the effect of aggressive music and lyrics, video games, media exposure and screen addictions on the minds of developing children. He will be a guest speaker at the Sydney seminar Right2Childhood, which is being sponsored by Generation Next on 19 October.

The 2003 Media and young offenders World Youth Report said that “Over time, television causes a shift in the system of human values and indirectly leads children to view violence as a desirable and even courageous way of re−establishing justice”. More recently the American Psychological Association concluded that television violence accounts for about 10% of aggressive behaviour among children.

At the same time, parents and teachers need to understand young people’s affinity for and interest in new media. Without a greater understanding this digital divide can cause family/classroom arguments, non communication, defiance and disharmony.

“I am often approached by parents and professionals who work with children, who have heard conflicting reports about the effects of violent or sexualised media on children. Usually, they simply want to know what the scientific research has found,” he said.

A recently published book Growing up Fast and Furious: Reviewing the Impact of Violent and Sexualised Media on Children’ which Dr Warbuton contributed to and edited contains the latest research data about the impacts (both positive and negative) of television, movies, video games and music on the development of children, as well as the ethical, legal and policy implications.

It also offers plenty of helpful, practical advice for anyone who is concerned about the effects of media on children.

Dr Warburton also points out that the continued rise in popularity of rap, hip hop and heavy metal music is of concern as the lyrics often glorify aggression (especially against women), violent sexual acts (rather than sentiments about someone you care about), anti social themes, murder and thoughts of suicide. In 2005 90% of the most popular rap songs spoke about alcohol and drug use, content has progressed to a disturbing level since then with lyrics now describing rape and violence.

Dr Warburton recognises that a better understanding of the media that kids are exposed to will help steer away from the potential negative influences of new media and re-direct children towards forms of media that can enhance each stage of their development.

Dr Wayne Warburton is a lecturer in developmental psychology with the Department of Psychology and is the Deputy Director of the Children and Families Research Centre at Macquarie University (Sydney).  He is also guest speaker at the Right2childhood seminar to be held in Sydney on Friday 19 October at the Wesley Conference Centre.
Register for the Sydney Right2Childhood seminar on 19 October here.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Growing up Fast and Furious: Reviewing the Impact of Violent and Sexualised ‘Media on Children’. Children and Families Research Centre.