A campus shooting. A gang assault. A school bus ambush. With each successive event, fingers are pointed at the usual suspects: violent films, bloody video games, explicit websites. But to what extent can - or should - the media be implicated in youth crime? And are today's sophisticated young people really that susceptible to their influence? These are the issues addressed in the new book Adolescents, Crime and the Media by Christopher Ferguson, an internationally recognized researcher of video game and other media effects.
Dr. Ferguson explains, "In this research field, tensions run high, politics and science intersect, and it becomes a Herculean task to attempt to separate fact from fiction, truth from hyperbole, science from agenda. This is particularly true where youth are involved."
After every violent act involving a young person as the perpetrator, the same questions are asked. Do violent media lead to increased prevalence of violent crimes among youth and young adults? Are youth particularly susceptible to media effects because they are impressionable and impulsive? Does media coverage of spectacular crimes glorify these incidents and promote further violent acts?
How these questions are answered needs to be based on a dispassionate examination of the data available. Ferguson's work presents a thorough analysis of the media effects on young people's behavior, brain development in adolescence, ways adults can be misled about youth's participation in criminal acts, and how science can be manipulated by prevailing attitudes toward youth.
Ferguson adds, "As a media and violence researcher myself, I present the research as it is, not a glossed-over presentation of what some scientists, politicians, media companies or special interests groups would like it to be for their 'message.' Nor do I exonerate the media from any questionable motives or practices."
Adolescents, Crime and the Media looks specifically at violence in the media and media portrayals of crime and youth. It also covers research on violent television programs, video games, and other media as potential causes of crime. Finally, it presents insights on the effects of pornography on behavior and touches on public policy, censorship, and First Amendment issues.
Christopher Ferguson, Ph.D., is an associate professor of clinical and forensic psychology at Texas A&M International University. He recently participated in a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden as part of a task force on gun control. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, Ferguson was widely sought out by the media as an expert on the possible connection between video games and youth violence.
Christopher Ferguson. Adolescents, Crime, and the Media: A Critical Analysis. (Springer) Hardcover ISBN 978-1-4614-6740-3. Also available as an eBook.
Review copies are available for journalists. Interviews with the author are also available.