The Problem: Youth Violence
According to the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ"), law enforcement agencies arrested approximately 2.8 million juveniles in 1997. Of that number, 2,500 were arrested for murder and 121,000 for other violent crimes. Juveniles accounted for 19% of all arrests, 14% of murder arrests, and 17% of all violent crime arrests.
According to DOJ, the number of juvenile violent crime arrests in 1997 exceeded the 1988 level by 49%.
According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.9% of high school students carried a gun in the 30 days prior to the survey. Eighteen percent of high school students now carry a knife, razor, firearm, or other weapon on a regular basis, and 9% of them take a weapon to school.
A Principal Cause: Media Violence
The Committee report reviewed existing studies and found
Eighty-seven percent of American households have more than one television, and almost 50% of children have television in their rooms; 88.7% of homes with children have home video game equipment, a personal computer, or both. An average teenager listens to 10,500 hours of rock music during the years between the 7th and 12th grades.
By age 18 an American child will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence.
Television alone is responsible for 10% of youth violence.
Modern music lyrics have become increasingly explicit concerning sex, drugs, and violence against women.
A preference for heavy metal music may be a significant marker for alienation, substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, suicide risk, sex-role stereotyping, and risk-taking behaviors during adolescence.
Violent video games have an effect on children similar to that of violent television and film. Some experts suggest an even greater pernicious effect, concluding that the violent actions performed in playing video games are more conducive to children's aggression. As one expert concludes, "We're not just teaching kids to kill. We're teaching them to like it."
America's youth are also exposed to violent words, music, and images on the Internet, where there are more than 1,000 websites espousing radical hate and bigotry and violence.
More than 1,000 studies on the effects of television and film violence have been done over the past 40 years. The majority of these studies reach the same conclusion: television and film violence leads to real-world violence.
The existing research shows beyond a doubt that media violence is linked to youth violence. As one expert concludes, "To argue against it is like arguing against gravity."
Responsive, Responsible Steps for National Reform
The Report makes several recommendations for national reform aimed at curbing the effects of violent media on children, including measures that would:
Enact a limited antitrust exemption enabling the entertainment industries to conduct joint discussions and enter into agreements to develop voluntary guidelines and ensure retail compliance with existing ratings systems;
Encourage the television, motion picture, music, and video game industries to develop a uniform rating system for their products;
Establish a biannual "report card" by the Federal Trade Commission detailing the prevalence of media violence and industry efforts to reduce it;
Require that retail establishments disclose music lyrics to parents;
Ensure that parents will have access to filtering technology that will enable them to block access to Internet content they deem unsuitable for children;
Encourage Internet service providers to rid their systems of "hate" material, and criminalize the posting of such material, when posted to incite an act of violence;
Provide for a 2-year national campaign against youth violence;
Limit the use of certain federal property, equipment, or personnel in filming motion pictures or television shows that glorify or endorse violence;
Require a Federal Trade Commission/Attorney General joint study to determine the extent to which the entertainment industries market violence to children;
Provide for a National Institute of Health study to explore further the impact of violent video games and music on children;
Establish a National Youth Violence Commission to study and identify the causes of youth violence;
Establish a national media campaign to educate parents about rating systems, the V-Chip, Internet filters, and other tools available to shield children from media violence;
Create a national clearinghouse on children and entertainment violence, modeled on the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information; and
Create financial incentives for entertainment companies that would use federal property, equipment, or personnel to create programs suitable for children.