Watching violence

Dr Ramachandra Ponnan.

YOUTHS aren’t fazed by graphic content of violent clips on social media.

They watch a woman being raped on Facebook and they laugh, Dr Ramachandran Ponnan says, matter-of-fact.

The Taylor’s University (School of Communication) associate professor recently completed his research on violence among Gen Y movie-goers in Peninsular Malaysia.

The impact of watching violent content on social media, he opines, is less compared to the big screen. While social media content is available freely and at any time, the effect is not the same.

The experience of watching a movie on a hand-held device or a laptop is very different from going to the cinema. Being in a cinema compels you to give 99% of your attention to the screen. The focus and concentration needed is different. Visual clarity, sound and screen size, impact understanding.

“It’s not the same as being in a room with distractions – people walking in and out of the house and you getting up to use the toilet or to get a glass of water. Users usually watch short clips on their gadgets. If it’s a movie, they’ll probably watch it in parts, with intervals in between, and not for two hours straight like in the cinema,” says Dr Ramachandran, who is planning to study violence and social media next.

It’s worrying that 10% of local youths aged between 16 and 35, are engaged in deviant activities like crime, he says. This, coupled with reports – especially on social media – about rampant violence among teens, was what led to the study on movie-goers. His study, involving 1,880 youths, and 18 related experts, was conducted in violent ‘hotspots’.

While youths are not influenced by violent content in movies, violence is an important part of their enjoyment. The more violent the film, the more interesting it is. Hitting a girl is normal, just like it is in the movies.

“There’s no correlation between violence in movies and what’s happening in their lives but there are exceptional situations that make them more aggressive. If there’s a catalyst – like revenge or pent up anger – that pushes you over the edge, violence can result.”

Movies don’t cause violence but it portrays what happens in reality so it’s a vicious circle, he explains.

“Say two siblings have been arguing for days. The brother goes off to watch a violent movie. Immediately upon returning, they start arguing again. Such a situation may trigger violence but it also depends on a person’s character, education and age.”

An unconscious adoption of violence can be from what’s happening in the neighbourhood, among peers, in school, and from video games and cartoons.

Parents who advise and set boundaries for children can prevent them from being involved in violence, says Dr Ramachandran. But, generally youths from socio-economically deprived homes glorify movie violence and downplay parental guidance.

“Parental guidance, however, mustn’t be oppressive. Values must be put in place before the child turns 13. Once they pass that age, children become recalcitrant and tend to listen to their peers more than their parents.”

Media literacy – especially social media – is important. Likening education to defensive driving, he says it’s crucial in preventing violent behaviour among youths.

“Don’t accept aggression or rebellious attitude at home, in the neighbourhood or in society. We cannot allow the enjoyment of violent movies to influence such behaviour among our youths.”

Parents should monitor their children’s exposure to violent media content. Youths watching movies will downplay their reactions to violent scenes when watching movies with their parents and watching it at home, prevents them from over-reacting to the scenes.

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Courts & Crime , violence , movies


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