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Effects of Violent Media on Children’s Play With Firearms: A Laboratory Experiment

By: & Published: 2020 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases: Medicine and Health
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The following case study details the procedures used to examine the effects of violent media on children’s play when finding real firearms. The design has good internal validity and can be adjusted for a variety of inquiries into media effects, negative or positive. Readers can appreciate the detailed practicalities of manipulating the independent variable, measuring the dependent variables, and control of various covariates. In this case study, children aged 8–12 years watched an age-appropriate movie clip as released (with gun violence) or edited (without gun violence). After watching the movie, children were allowed to play for 20 min in a room with various cabinets containing Nerf guns, toys, and games. One of the cabinets contained a 9-mm handgun modified so that the trigger could be pulled and counted via an infrared signal. Participants also completed questionnaires measuring media diet, aggressive behavior, attitudes toward guns, and demographic information. Each play period was recorded via hidden cameras and later coded for verbal and physical aggression, time spent with the firearm (if found), and trigger pulls. These recordings allow for quantitative and qualitative inquiry in the relationship between media consumption and dangerous behavior around a real firearm. Testing of media effects in a laboratory setting may limit external validity and generalization of results. However, initial understanding of phenomena in tightly controlled experiments can help researchers understand the nuances of relationships between variables. Inclusion of the general public in social scientific research can also help increase scientific literacy and demystify the scientific process. Ethical considerations are noted at each step of the procedure. Best practices are also recommended, especially when recruiting children from the community.

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