Media Violence

Violence and the Media

Over 3,000 medical and sociological studies in the last 50 years have PROVEN CONCLUSIVELY that children are adversely affected by exposure to media violence. (see studies)

A recent Rasmussen poll showed a majority of Americans blame violent video games and movies for “making America a more hostile place”. Yet, new research from the Parents Television Council, taken during the November 2017 sweeps period, has found that TV violence – and gun violence in particular – that is marketed as appropriate for children has increased on primetime broadcast television shows in the five years since the Newtown tragedy.

  • - During the November 2017 “sweeps” period of primetime broadcast TV shows, almost 61% (175 of the 287 episodes examined) contained violence; and 39% (112 episodes) contained violence and guns. Of note, the study period was approximately one month following the Las Vegas mass shooting on October 1, 2017. The study period in 2013 was about one month following the Newtown mass shooting.
  • - Every program during the November 2017 “sweeps” period was rated either TV-PG or TV-14, meaning that the television networks determined every single program to be appropriate for a child aged 14 or, in many instances, even younger. The “V” content descriptor connoting violence was absent on nearly a quarter (24%) of the shows that contained violence.
  • - Congressional testimony 2003: "the correlation between violent media and aggressive behavior in children is stronger than that of calcium intake and bone mass, lead ingestion and lower IQ, condom non-use and sexually acquired HIV, and environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer, all associations that clinicians accept as fact."

  • - During a 2013 PTC study, a total of 512 guns & bladed weapons were shown on examined broadcast shows. Almost 70% were guns. Viewers watching crime dramas on TV are exposed to a gun or bladed weapon every 3 minutes.
  • - From this 2013 study, a broadcast show (rated TV-14) had more violence than all TV-MA cable shows. (See graph at )
  • - A 2013 study by Annenberg Public Policy Center and Ohio State University found gun violence in PG-13 movies has more than tripled since 1985. Since 2009, the amount of carnage in PG-13 films has been roughly equivalent to films that are rated R.
  • - During a one month research period in early 2013 (just one month after the Newtown tragedy), there were 934 individual scenes of violence within 193 primetime broadcast TV shows that contained violence. All of it was rated by the networks as being appropriate for children as young as 14.

  • - During the 2005-2006 season, violence between 8 pm - 9 pm increased 45% on broadcast TV. Violence between 9 pm - 10 pm increased 92% on broadcast TV.
  • - Between 2004-2009, violence against women has increased 120% on broadcast TV.
  • - In 1998, ABC averaged .13 instances of violence during the family hour.
    By 2006, it had increased 1615%.
  • - Despite the 1999 tragedy at Colombine High School, by 2002 depictions of violence were 41% more frequent during the 8 p.m. Family Hour, and 134.4% more frequent during the 9 p.m. hour than in 1998.

PTC studies have been complimented by outside scientific studies which have shown:

- Playing a violent video game for just an hour over a three-day period is enough to increase aggressive behaviour. See a Dec 2012 study by Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

  • - There is a firm link between media violence and negative behavior in children.
  • - Exposure to media violence may alter brain activity in nonviolent children.

General TV

‘Broad Consensus’ that Media Violence Can Lead to Increased Child Aggression
• Psychology of Popular Media Culture
• (Bushman, Cruz, & Gollwitzer)


Childhood and Adolescent Television Viewing and Antisocial Behavior in Early Adulthood
• Pediatrics
• (Robertson, McAnally, & Hancox


Comfortably numb: Desensitizing effects of violent media on helping others
• Psychological Science
• (Bushman, B. J., & Anderson, C. A)


Media violence, aggression, and public policy
• Beyond Common Sense: Psychological Science in the Courtroom
• (Anderson, C.A., & Gentile, D.A.)


Media Violence and Social Neuroscience: New Questions and New Opportunities
• Current Directions in Psychological Science
• (Carnagey, N. L., Anderson, C. A., & Bartholow, B. D.)

Measuring the strength of the effect of violent media on aggression
• American Psychologist
• (Bushman, B. J., & Anderson, C.A.)

Public policy and the effects of media violence on children
• Social Issues and Policy Review
• (Gentile, D.A., Saleem, M., & Anderson, C.A.)


Short-term and long-term effects of violent media on aggression in children and adults
• Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
• (Bushman, B. J., & Huesmann, L. R.)

Media exposure, aggression and prosocial behavior during early childhood: A longitudinal study
• Social Development
• (Ostrov, J. M., Gentile, D. A., & Crick, N. R.)


The Evidence that Media Violence Stimulates Aggression in Young Viewers Remains 'Unequivocal.'
• Commentary in APS Observer
• (Huesmann, L. R., & Anderson, C.A.)

Video Games


Longitudinal Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggression in Japan and the United States
• Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education
• (Swing, E.L., & Anderson, C.A.)


A negative association between video game experience and proactive cognitive control
• Psychophysiology
• (Bailey, K., West, R., & Anderson, C. A.)

How and what do video games teach?
• Children's Learning in a Digital World
• (Swing, E.L., & Anderson, C.A.)


Violent video games: Learning processes and outcomes
• Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education
• (Swing, E.L., & Anderson, C.A.)


The effect of video game violence on physiological desensitization to real-life violence
• Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
• (Carnagey, N. L., & Anderson, C.A., Bushman, B. J.)

Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy
• Oxford University Press
• (Anderson, C.A., Gentile, D.A., & Buckley, K.E.)


Chronic violent video game exposure and desensitization to violence: Behavioral and event-related brain potential data
• Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
• (Bartholow, B. D., Bushman, B. J., & Sestir, M. A.)



An Evaluation of the Motion Picture Association of America’s Treatment of Violence in PG-, PG-13–, and R-Rated Films Pediatrics (Lucille Jenkins, MPH, Theresa Webb, PhD, Nick Browne, EdD , A.A. Afifi, PhD and Jess Kraus, PhD, MPH)

Effects of violent movies and trait hostility on hostile feelings and aggressive thoughts Aggressive Behavior (Anderson, C.A.)

Violent Video Games and Minors


The Issue

In today's video game world, children can "role-play" as murderers, cop-killers, gang members, auto thiefs or any number of human-like characters carrying out mind-altering tasks with realistic graphics. These games reward killing and encourage violent criminal conduct. Under current laws, retailers are not obligated to impose restrictions on the sale of video games to minors. Currently, a ten-year-old can purchase an Adult Only (AO rated) video game.

Allowing higher rated video games to only be sold to adults will have no affect on the ability for this industry to pursue its profit and its "art" amongst adult consumers. When graphic sex, extreme violence, and the glamorization and codification of disrespect for the most basic of norms that make up human decency are involved in a product that children can use and learn from, parents need to be a part of the decision making process. In the face of scientific proof that there is potential for irrevocable damage when children play violent video games, as a society we would be grossly derelict to not enforce the standards that the video game industry itself has said are prudent and necessary.

The PTC urges lawmakers to support legislation that enforces the ESRB ratings guides for purchase of games backed by financial penalties for those who do not follow the law.

Research Studies

For more than fifty years, social scientists have insisted that exposure to violent media products leads to aggressive behavior in children. The US military agrees, and uses simulators that are similar to first-person shooter video games to desensitize soldiers to violence and mentally prepare them to kill.

Media Violence E-Series

We want your feedback!

The PTC has presented a seven-part educational series to highlight the truths about the effects of media violence on children, how the entertainment industry and our political leaders ignore scientific evidence, the realities of the completely flawed TV ratings system, and what we can do about it.

While the PTC believes that parents have the greatest responsibility of the viewing habits of their children, join families across the country demanding accurate ratings and responsible entertainment from the networks who produce and distribute television content, to the companies that underwrite these messages with their advertising dollars, to the Federal Communications Commission, and to our representatives in Congress.

Join the conversation!

Take action below, and also read through the blog posts (links below) to send us your thoughts!

Part One: Science 101

Science Proves Media Violence Influences Real-Life Violence
Currently over 3,000 studies in the last 50 years have PROVEN CONCLUSIVELY that children are adversely affected by exposure to media violence; yet many parents still allow their children to watch extremely violent programs, go to violent R-rated movies, and spend hours role-playing in very violent and graphic first-person video games. What every parent should know about the science behind the scenes...

Part Two: The Do Nothings

Post-Newtown, TV Industry PROMISED Action On Media Violence — But Did NOTHING.
Fearing a backlash against the huge amounts of violence they pumped into movie theaters, video games, and television, Entertainment Industry "Representatives" met last year with Vice-President Joe Biden, claiming to be concerned about societal violence and vowing to act responsibly in the future. This is what they have done...

Part Three: Keeping Up with the Joneses

Broadcast TV Violence: As Bad As Cable – But Rated for Kids
New research confirmed that the volume and degree of violent content shown on broadcast and cable are virtually indistinguishable. The broadcast TV shows in the study consistently graphically-violent content as TV-14 (appropriate for 14-year-old children), even though similar content on the cable networks was rated as TV-MA (for mature audiences only). So who wins? Definitely not the children!

Part Four: Broken Promises Continue

This is how Networks "protect" Children from Media Violence
After the Newtown and Aurora shootings, entertainment industry executives talked about their “longstanding commitment” to helping parents protect children from media violence.And how did one such network fulfill that promise?They gave America a TV series in which a psychotic serial killer is the HERO! ...and just guess what this program is rated?

Part Five: The Deluge

Television Deluges Viewers with Violence
Rather than just telling a powerfully entertaining story, the broadcast networks today seem obsessed with violence simply for the sake of shock-value. Here are more examples of the kind of violence the broadcast networks – who use the airwaves that YOU own! – beamed into every living room in America last year.

Part Six: The Elephant in the Room

Why Are Content Ratings So Inaccurate?
If content ratings are not accurate, parental controls that the network brag about, such as the V-chip, are useless. Our E-Series has clearly shown that the ratings system is flawed and highly inaccurate. The tools the networks promised to This is not by accident or incompetence. Guess WHO assigns the age and content ratings to TV programs, and WHY.

Take Action: Reforming the Ratings System

It is Time to Overhaul the Broken TV Ratings System
Currently over 3,000 studies in the last 50 years have PROVEN CONCLUSIVELY that children are adversely affected by exposure to media violence; yet many parents still allow their children to watch extremely violent programs, go to violent R-rated movies, and spend hours role-playing in very violent and graphic first-person video games. This is not by accident or incompetence.


Besides e-alerts, the PTC has also organized campaigns that encourage action to be taken by legislators and other entities involved, such as Advertiser Accountability, Cable Choice, Broadcast Indecency, and Female Sexualization.


If you are new to PTC, go to the "New to PTC" page where you can get a quick review of all the way you can get involved.


Changing the culture of media violence is a gallant, but a big challenge. Social media and other technologies have given us the ability to change the world. But we need you all to help...SHARE THIS PAGE, post on Facebook.. tweet out about the PTC your friends an family..and do whatever it takes to make the world safer for our children.