Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Violent Video Games and Gun Control

A recent article online spurred a conversation this afternoon about the cause and effect of violent behavior by our kids due to violent video games.

In this article that spurred such conversation the author talked about being expelled from various high schools because he brought loaded weapons to school.  His thesis was that the only difference between him and the kids that carried out gun violence at schools and movie theaters was that he never played video games.  He contends that the only thing different from his and these kids were that they did play violent video game.

This article is an interesting read but even more interesting is the long list of comments that follow.

Here is a snippet of one conversation this afternoon:

K: Interesting post, I also worry about the desensitizing effect over time of violent video games on vulnerable teens. Our kids deserve better.

M: Hi K, I would love to talk with you about violent video games. I am a huge proponent of families playing video games together and in my opinion too often the games are blamed for societies ills - There is a book out about it actually. There is a huge concern for the vulnerable teens but that, in my opinion, is why we desperately need more education and greater parent involvement. We also need greater training for our teens to be mentors so that those vulnerable teens have somewhere safe to go to and talk about problems if they can't or won't go to their parents.

K: I would love to talk more, and I hear you on this, but how can you practice killing people over and over again and not be desensitized in some way, especially with how real these videos are starting to look? As parents we must be engaged in our kids lives and involved with the kids around us - genuinely interested in them, that is a given, but I think we also need to look at how we value life in the things we are exposed to.

M: It is a fascinating discussion and there definitely needs to be more research - the numbers show that since the early 90's and the emergence of video games youth violence has actually decreased. Anyway, it is a great discussion with the point being (in my opinion) that it is just too easy to "blame" the video game - instead we should be looking at root causes and practical solutions. By blaming the video games the politicians and parents essentially let themselves off the hook from trying to come up with workable, reasonable, and evidenced based solutions.

K: Interesting, I can see that. I just hate how much violence permeates our culture, from games to movies, it's got to have some effect. What's the title of the book?

M: There is one thing that this author has spot on - if you want to keep kids out of them a horse. I have heard this is the best thing for troubled teens. Of course, not every family can afford a horse and many inner city troubled youth don't even have access to a barn or 4H program. The best thing we can do for our kids is to give them a productive outlet for their energy. There is a study that organized sports is the best thing you can do for boys to keep them out of trouble. Unfortunately, this requires some parental intervention and so how do we as a community reach out to our troubled teens and mentor them into one of these activities. Secondly, how do we get our teens into a program like the Teen Angels to learn how to be a peer mentor and spot these troubled teens keeping them out of trouble in the first place.

M: There is a great episode of One Tree Hill where a kid brings a gun to school The long and the short of it is that many of these troubled teens (like the author of this piece) feel isolated and alone - like no one would even notice if they were gone.

M: The book is Violent Games Violent Children? and looks at the recent research and talks about some solutions for parents. It is meant to be a discussion starter - like the discussion we are having today. It is currently only available on kindle.

K: My kid would use your horse quote against me, but I have heard that from many people, including friends who, now grown, can attest to that in retrospect. My daughter will have to settle for her dogs...and lizard...and salt water fish... and fresh water fish... and us. 

What do you think?

Leave your comments below or continue the conversation on facebook.

* On an editorial note it is often very interesting to me how so many people are able to completely separate video games from violent movies.  Somehow Hollywood comes out unscathed in these conversations about a correlation between violent images and violent behavior.   The conversation of violent images and the portrayal of violence on people (as opposed to CGI characters) is just as important.

The other conversation is the level of respect this violence instills in our kids.  The conversation about kids and violent images is typically confined to gun violence.  We rarely have the conversation about what might be the cause of violent behavior between tweens that do not include guns - cyberbullying, teen rape, and other actions of disrespect.

When we only have the conversation of Violent Video Games as the cause of gun violence we marginalize real problems and we do not get any closer to solutions.  I believe in looking at the evidence and get to the root of the problem.  Then we can begin to look at real solutions to helping out kids navigate the stormy waters of puberty and their teen years.  We cannot merely rely on research that is based on television and movie violence.  More research on video games and our kids is essential.

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