Mass media refers to the impersonal channels used to disseminate information to the public. The information is meant for public consumption and not for personal consumption. There are a number of channels used which include radio, newspaper, motion pictures and television. Media is used mostly to portray cultural values and beliefs through the articles and programmes contained in them. (Travis, 2000) For instance, through the media, national public days are aired; local shows with local touch are aired, as well as sports programs. In addition, some societal values regarding patriotism, religious and motherhood are shown.
Some sub-cultural patterns that have to do with the policeman, business executive or juvenile delinquency are shown via the media to all the people of the community or the mass society.Right from young age to the old age, the members of society are frequently bombarded by the type of stimuli which is presented in a number of mass media. (Travis, 2000) Mass media’s perverseness is usually reflected in the statistics which are in circulation. Studies have shown that around 5.000,000 copies if television guides are sold every week and millions of people have access to newspapers. (Joseph, 1975)
From this wide dissemination of these articles, the social scientists and the laymen have become interested to find out what type of consequences those media have on human behavior and especially the children. To be more specific, most parents have deep desire to find out the impact some books on crime and movie dramas have on young children. (Michael, 1999)
On the other hand, the advertisers want to find out if their products advertised on the media are selling or not. Unfortunately, there have been very little scientific studies of the specific impact of mass media on how they motivate humans. Paul Lazarsfeld, an outstanding researcher on the effect of mass media on the behavior of human, gave his testimony and presented it before senate subcommittee in charge of investigating Juvenile delinquency. He reported that very little is known concerning the kind of impact media has on young children.(Travis 2000) He therefore appealed for more scientific research to be done to replace impressionistic evidence which has been quoted by some lay individuals. (Joseph, 1975)
The Effects Media Has On Juvenile Delinquency
Media has been accused many times of contributing to the juvenile delinquency. The lawlessness which is more prevalent among the young people is mostly associated with media. There are no restrictions placed on the youth and therefore they can access books, television programs, and pornographic magazines at will. As a result, their way of thinking and acting has been seriously affected. (Rodney, 1990) For instance, action packed movies; detective programs which are full of crimes have a way of training young people on the effective ways of robbery, violence and murder.
As a result so many cases have been received regarding youth who have been arrested for committing robbery. There has been an increase to the crime content, sadism, horror as well as brutality in most comic books, motion pictures and television programs.(Robert, 2001) The three types of media according to most critics deserve special attention. They also served as a special focus for senate subcommittee in charge of investigating juvenile delinquency from the year 1954 to 1956. (Michael, 1999)
Television, radio, comic books and motion pictures films have been named as significant factors contributing to juvenile delinquency. The presentation of horror, crime and sequences of brutality is imputed in movies and more so by the lay observers, to be partly to blame for the current juvenile delinquency. (Rodney, 1990) Other effects are moral decadence as a result of watching pornographic movies and reading pornographic magazines.
Many young people can be found at the brothels and others acts of prostitution. There are so many dancing styles which have come as a result of the media influence, which can also be called ‘dirty dancing styles’. (Joseph, 1975)The values which have been traditionally believed in no longer matter, whatever young people see on TV are what they tend to believe in more. (Michael, 1999)
According top early delinquency researchers, they were only interested with the effect the motion pictures had on the youth. Cyril Burt made a report around 1925 that approximately eight percent of the delinquent boys had deep interests in motion pictures. Burt’s report in the film reveals the techniques used to commit crimes as well as crimes which have been positively advertised. Other studies on delinquents were made by Bronner and Healy. (Rodney, 1990)
According to their study regarding non delinquents and delinquents in Boston and Detroit around the 1930, they revealed that the largest number of delinquents were frequent attendees of movies and films. (Michael, 1999) There were reports however, that very small number of delinquents had imitated the techniques used to commit crimes that they had seen on screens. From the way Bronner and Healy treated movies in their studies the conclusion to be made is that they dismissed films as inconsequential as far as juvenile delinquency is concerned. (Robert, 2001)
Other studies were done by Hauser and Blumer, on the impact the films and motion pictures had on juvenile delinquency. The studies were conducted under auspices of Payne Fund for a period of four years from 1929-1932. The studies were done by psychologists and sociologists from the university and their aim was to establish the impact motion pictures had on children’s psychological, physical and social behavior. (Rodney, 1990) The most interesting study about delinquency made by Bulmer and Hauser (Sociologists) was from entitled delinquency, movies and crime. (Joseph, 1975)
The focus was on the role of motion pictures in the careers of female and male delinquents as well as criminals. The impact of films on inmates in the rehabilitation centers and non-delinquents girls and boys was also made. The findings however, were definitive and conclusive and should not be dismissed as rough estimations. (Michael, 1999)
It was obvious that individuals will always perceive the content in the film and make interpretations of the meaning based on the experiences they have had previously on socialization as well as the unique personality they have. (Michael, 1999) Motion pictures therefore exert effects described as antithetical. The conventional behavior while in some, they may be more inclined to participate in crime and delinquency. (Rodney, 1990)
According to Blumer and Hauser, the effect of movies, TV program and other media cannot be studied without studying the people watching them. There is always an interaction between the content of the film and those viewing them. (Joseph, 1975) Blumer further said that films were a significant factor in delinquent and criminal careers of around 10% of males and 25% of females studied. To conclude their studies, Blumer and Hauser observed that those kids who are more exposed to movies are more inclined to delinquent behavior. (Robert, 2001)
A study was made by Paul Cressey on the effect of media on the juvenile delinquency. He made conclusions which were opposing those ones of Hauser and Blumer. His study was made in New York City believed to be high delinquency area. After making a number of observations under conditions which were controlled, Cressey made the conclusion that movies and motion pictures lacked appreciable effect on juvenile delinquency. (Michael, 1999)
It is obvious that media has influenced the behavior of the youth in so many ways. The dressing styles and hip hop styles are largely influenced by the media. The situation has been made worse by the number of channels that are currently accessible in the comfort of one’s living room. Regardless of the perspectives that are given by the researchers, we can also make our own observations and narrate our own personal experiences. (Joseph, 1975)
First hand information is gotten from the media. Wrestling techniques are also received from the television. Despite the warnings that media gives its audience such as ‘not suitable for a person below 15,18 or 20 years’ it is still not adequate to keep off the youth. (Rodney, 1990) Even airing these programs very late at night is still not enough, because some kids stay up late. It is the moral obligation of the media to censor programs being aired or air only those shows which cannot affect the youth negatively. (Michael, 1999)
This move will go along way in reducing the juvenile delinquency currently witnessed and especially at homes. Children have disrespected their parents and use vulgar language without understanding the implications. (Michael, 1999) The overuse of derogatory remarks and crazy styles of dressing have made the world difficult to live in. The erosion of moral values and failure of media to give us the role models who can be emulated by the children has largely contributed to juvenile delinquency. (Joseph, 1975)There is no middle ground.
The fact of the matter is juvenile delinquency is made worse by the motion pictures among other types of media. (Travis, 2000) Talk show should replace programs which are full of scenes of violence so that virtues and societal values can be inculcated among the youth.However, we cannot deny that media has had positive impact in terms of the news channels and a host of other entertainment programs but it may not earn credit that it deserves if more of the programs that impact negatively on the youth continue to be aired. (Michael, 1999)
The mass media should therefore present to the audience and the public at large, particularistic cultural norms. There should also be other forms of recreational facilities and thus the children would not be so much into TV. (Rodney, 1990)
The internet which has also become a vital part of media should also be censored since the youth can access any information they want and hence controlling juvenile delinquency has become increasingly challenging. A better society is achievable if measures are taken to reduce juvenile delinquency, through censoring information disseminated by media. (Michael, 1999)
Joseph, S. (1975) Juvenile Delinquency, Ayer Company Publishers, 2nd Edition
Michael, J. (1999) Age, Sex and the Versatility of Delinquent Involvement, Palgrave Press, US.
Rodney, S. (1990) Deviant Places: A theory of the Ecology of Crime, Harvard Press, US.
Robert, J. (2001) Social Disorganization and Theories of Crime and Delinquency, New York Publishers, US.
Travis, H (2000) A Control Theory of Delinquency, Palgrave Press, UK