Today, kids are exposed to far more violent and sexually explicit material than when we were young. But which exactly is worse: violence or sex?
Some say that in a post-Columbine world, violence is the more dangerous influence. The biggest advocate of this position is the daytime advice-doling Dr. Phil. In particular, he targets violent video games as having an adverse effect on a child’s development.
The number one negative effect is they tend to inappropriately resolve anxiety by externalizing it. So when kids have anxiety, which they do, instead of soothing themselves, calming themselves, talking about it, expressing it to someone, or even expressing it emotionally by crying, they tend to externalize it. They can attack something, they can kick a wall, they can be mean to a dog or a pet.
Dr. Phil’s logic makes sense on the page, but anecdotally, having grown up with video games, I’ve never seen anyone “externalize” their emotions from playing Nintendo — at least not in a way that wasn’t just out of good ‘ol competitive spirit.
Still, while you’ll find plenty of articles on the effects of violent content, you won’t find quite as much writing on the dangers of sex. Instead, it seems to be a value that’s simply implied. Of course, there’s also the infamous divide on film ratings between the U.S. and Europe to consider. Americans tend to be more sensitive to content that involves any sexually explicit material — particularly nudity, despite the context — while Europeans are more affected by graphic violence — a quality that doesn’t seem to phase us as much in the U.S.
Still, there’s no conclusive or truly convincing study that proves that either violence or sex affects children negatively. Perhaps it’s too difficult to document, or maybe we’re underestimating the ability of kids to understand that what happens on television should stay on television.
There’s a brilliant headline from humor site The Onion that sums the counter argument perfectly. In reference to Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show debacle: “U.S. Children Still Traumatized One Year After Seeing Partially Exposed Breast On TV.”
So readers, which is the worse influence: violence or sex? Does it vary between movies, video games, and music? Discuss!