Violence and the Media
Sylvia Estafan is Program Specialist for the Hollywood, Health & Society program at the Lear Center
As President Obama gears up for a new term in office, he's vowed to tackle the important and timely issue of gun control. The tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut quickly became the unfortunate impetus for a conversation about gun violence in the U.S., in which the President outlined several approaches to address the complex issue. Among his points, Obama mentioned the impact of exceedingly violent images that have become mainstream in our nation's culture. The President said the country needs to tackle a "culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence." Although most of us tend to see violence as a criminal justice issue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have long recognized violence as a serious public health problem in our country.
The public health community has a number of evidence-based tools under its belt to address violence. It's not unusual to see a complex problem approached using a multi-faceted intervention. Indeed, violence is one of these complex issues. Improving access to mental health services is an important component, but changes in healthcare clearly take time. How about gun laws? Those certainly won't change overnight either. But what if we want to use our momentum to make an impact sooner rather than later? Luckily, the framework is already in place for a large-scale intervention to begin now. An educational instrument exists that has the potential to change the public's knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors in regards to violence. In fact, this tool already reaches millions of Americans each day. What is this highly sophisticated instrument? It's your television.
TV audiences are being regularly exposed to violent images not only during news coverage, but also during their favorite