Psychologist: YouTube Has Become Tutorial For Kids On How To Act Violent

Regina F. Graham
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File photo of the YouTube homepage. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of the YouTube homepage. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Researchers and psychologists have long questioned what kind of effects violent television shows, song lyrics and video games have had on audiences throughout the years. Now, those same questions are being applied to videos featuring violent attacks and fights on sites like YouTube.

Clinical social worker and psychotherapist Laura Miller explained that video sharing sites like YouTube and WorldStarHipHop are allowing users to receive unlimited attention.

“I do think there is something about the unlimited attention that the Internet and specifically social media offer youth today that provides an incentive to defy rules and morality in the pursuit of a certain kind of power through broadcasting violent and demeaning behavior towards others,” Miller told CBSDC. “But I don’t think that YouTube and other social media sites can really be blamed for this.”

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Miller said that a new reality of teenagers’ lives is social media, but sites like YouTube are not the reason why some teens are choosing to humiliate others by posting violent videos featuring attacks on one another.

“Cyber bullying and teen violence need to be addressed in schools and at home,” Miller said. “The sadistic impulse to demean and physically harm other for fun that is demonstrated by the videos is not new, only the breadth of the available audience is.”

Krystine Batcho, Ph.D., though, voiced her concern that sites like YouTube have become tutorials for anything, including how to act violently.

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“A new phenomenon has occurred where sites like YouTube have become tutorials for kids,” Batcho, who has been seeing patients as a psychologist for over 30 years. “If you’re a teenage boy being rejected you’re going to look for a community or someone else out there who shares the same emotions as you. YouTube is so huge that the boy is likely to find someone else with similar thoughts or feelings.”

Batcho added that some kids can’t tell the difference between violent fantasies and what’s real.

“Young kids can’t tell what’s real and what’s not because there’s so much on there they can learn about things from all over the internet,” Batcho said. “We’ve had various incidents where people encourage young teens to commit suicide and you can find out how to do that on the Internet particularly social sharing sites.”

“A lot of people who post violent videos of them attacking someone or something else feel like the video is going to give them some immortality when it’s not.”

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Michael Broder, Ph.D., a renowned psychologist, agreed with Miller, also suggesting that sites like YouTube do not perpetuate violence.

“If there’s a solution, people really have to take more responsibility for their own behavior,” Broder told CBS DC. “Sites are getting more interactive and so forth with their audiences and they’re not going away because they’re making money.”

Broder, who is a bestselling author of Stage Climbing: The Shortest Path to Your Highest Potential, explained that kids being bullied or mean to one another is a fact of life and something that they go through, but school shootings or acts of violence should not be blamed on violent or abusive videos that were shared on social media sites.

“If one percent of people who were bullied went around committing mass murders, we’d be walking down the street seeing bodies lying everywhere,” Broder said. “I think that there’s a tendency and this had kind of grown in the past 25 years or so to blame other factors for people’s behavior.”

Joanne Broder Sumerson, Ph.D., and a research psychologist, agreed with Broder and explained that people need to be held accountable for their actions, and not blame violent videos on YouTube.

“People should be held accountable for their violent actions,” Sumerson told CBSDC. “Parents should be held accountable for teaching the long-term legal, emotional, social, and physical damage from the video content. The sites are not to blame. Individual lack of emotional and social intelligence plays a larger role.”

Sumerson, who is also the co-founding editor of Psychology of Popular Media Culture, added that children and teens need to understand that there are consequences when violent attacks on others are committed.

“Children and teens need to fully understand the consequences of fighting,” Sumerson said. “If they do not find it to comprehend the consequences, it might seem more acceptable. These videos are legal taboo, since they are actually accessible to minors. The taboo factor is appealing, like some entertainers who use sex as part of their routine.”

She went on further to explain that if there are no consequences to fighting or attacking others, violent videos are glamorizing fighting as a opposed to deterring it. Sumerson thinks that sites like YouTube, which has offices around the globe including Washington, D.C., could try to regulate the violent videos.

“YouTube could regulate these types of videos to make them more difficult for children and teens to access them,” Sumerson shared. “They could implement a rating system, like the movies, where legal adults would only be able to watch them. In addition, they share a disclaimer that these actions could have legal and physical consequences.”

YouTube does have a “Safety Mode,” which sets age restrictions to watch potentially inappropriate videos, but it’s easy to get around that by changing one’s birthday in their profile.

Miller, on the other hand, thinks that YouTube is legally doing what it needs to do in terms of what type of content is posted to the video sharing site.

“I’m fairly certain that YouTube is legally doing what it needs to do,” she explained. “It bans hate speech and turns over information to law enforcement when its videos are involved in investigations…If enough people mobilize around this issue, it may end up banning certain videos.”

In terms of the possible psychological effects teens and children are facing, Miller asserted that violent behavior is becoming normalized in those individuals who are seeking feedback from a wider audience than the one they may or may not have at home.

“So psychologically I think kids are affected in that these videos normalize the behavior a bit and there is more of a delay in their conscience shutting down the decision to act on such impulses,” Miller said. “But I do not believe that this is the root cause of such violence or even close. Even without YouTube, kids can find out about other kids engaging in this behavior.”

-Regina F. Graham

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