PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox — we all recognize these names and know the iconic brands that are behind them (Sony and Microsoft). In fact, almost every American has probably had their hands on one of their controllers at some point.
The gaming industry and game systems themselves have advanced since the days of the Atari, and as a result, the impact that they’re having on kids today is distinctly different from merely providing a source of entertainment. Today, games such as “Grand Theft Auto” and first-person shooters such as “Call of Duty” — two of the most popular games ever made — ushered in a new reality, a reality that fetishizes violence, murder, blood and gore.
These games have desensitized our children and have glorified the horrors of war and gang violence. They promote these violent extremes as a mere novelty to have fun. It’s time for parents and society to ask, is this what we want our children to be consuming on a regular basis? Are we prepared for the continued negative consequences that may come as a result?
There is a reason our kids are becoming more aggressive and violent toward one another and even toward their own parents. Exposing children to a constant tirade of violence poses a serious risk. In fact, according to a 2001 study conducted with 40 years of psychological research by Brad Bushman and Craig Anderson, chronic exposure to violent media makes children more prone to exhibit aggressive and violent behavior.
A 1982 report by the National Institute of Mental Health concludes the obvious: Violent media has serious effects on our children. “Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. Children may be more fearful of the world around them. Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others,” according to the results of the report. There is a reason our young people are killing one another instead of talking their problems out. There are reasons now some kids are even going to the extreme of harming their own parents over a mere disagreement.
In 2010, Anderson concluded in another study that “the evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.”
We have seen an increase in mass shootings by young people, and gang and street violence are rising back up to levels not seen since the 1980s, when crime was rampant.
When I was growing up, no one could have ever imagined that we would live in a world where young people would go to school and shoot their peers because of disagreement. We were taught to talk it out, and in some instances, some of the boys would certainly fight it out, but they would ultimately shake hands and move on. No one ever resorted to gun violence. Those days of civility among our young men in particular are long gone.
Today, our kids and young people are clearly crying out for help. They’re begging us to rescue them from the trenches of violence that are a very lonely and dark place. Their behavior tells us everything we need to know. If only we would listen and help figure out ways to redirect that anger and change what types of media our kids are allowed to access.
Most kids playing video games are boys whose ages range from 8-17. If a young boy starts playing video games as early as 8, imagine the impression it’s going to leave on his developing mind once he becomes a teenager. All he will know is violence. He will associate violence as the appropriate way to handle himself or to solve problems. Such is the case in “Grand Theft Auto,” where you physically assault people at will. What type of messages are these continuous images putting into the minds of our young people?
In the wake of the horrific elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, the question is, what are we going to do about this problem? Parents need to put pressure on political leaders to demand standards about the types of material our kids can have access to. How can companies market such violence to young and impressionable people while knowing that their minds are still developing and that they are still learning the ropes of life? Parents need to put pressure on gaming manufacturers to make it clear to them that standards must be raised, and young kids and young teenagers should not have access to games that promote violence and death. The key lies with the parents, and it’s up to parents to stand firm and say we must protect our children and the materials that they consume.
What do these stalking men acting alone and beset with inscrutable motives have in common? Whether in New York, Texas, California or Florida? A broken home. Sigmund Freud asserted that we become burdened with conscience or “superego” largely through our fathers. Over the past 50 years, we have seen fathers largely disappear into the mist, and we are left with all manner of human misery, among which are these lonely, brooding killers.