Ms. Linn’s impas­sioned argu­ment against media vio­lence — and against the National Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion — is surely well inten­tioned, but sev­eral under­lying assump­tions weaken her case.

Ms. Linn does not dif­fer­en­tiate between forms of rep­re­sen­ta­tional vio­lence. In the same way that an actual gun­shot to the face is sig­nif­i­cantly dif­ferent from a punch in the nose, media por­trayals of vio­lence are not homo­ge­neous, nor are their influ­ences alike.

She also states that chil­dren are the “tar­gets for mar­keting vio­lent media.” While this is undoubt­edly true to some extent, her asser­tion does not account for the fact that chil­dren are more likely to be curious eaves­drop­pers, looking in on the rep­re­sen­ta­tions of vio­lence that are ori­ented toward older and arguably more mature audi­ences. Despite being rel­a­tively tooth­less, rat­ings sys­tems across dif­ferent media prod­ucts are evi­dence of industry aware­ness that not all con­tent is child-​​friendly.

Finally, despite their tender age, chil­dren reg­u­larly demon­strate sophis­ti­cated inter­pre­tive skills per­taining to media, vio­lence, and social atti­tudes and behav­iors. Deter­mining whether or not they are desen­si­tized to vio­lence is impor­tant work, but the majority of chil­dren who are exposed to media vio­lence do not act out or mimic what they see. Let’s try to learn a bit more from and about them before imposing restric­tive policies.

Rox­bury, Mass., Jan. 23, 2013

The writer is an asso­ciate pro­fessor of media and screen studies at North­eastern University.


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