First, let’s reduce the pretend violence.

When my husband tossed the Saturday newspaper on the kitchen counter yesterday, I was stunned and saddened to read the headlines. (Not having a TV, and spending more time writing online than reading, sometimes I’m a few days behind what’s happening.) All this gun violence in Toronto and Colorado – it’s absolutely sickening.

Despite my revulsion, and being the instinctively curious human that I am, I flipped open the front section to read up on what had happened. Journalists outlined the nitty-gritty details on how the various shooters went about their grisly business. There were stories about survivors, and one particularly tragic young girl who narrowly escaped Toronto’s Eaton Centre shooting last month, only to die in the Colorado shooting.

And then there were the countless speculations on what would lead a young person to commit such an atrocity. Video games were cited as a motive behind the Columbine shooting, according to one writer, and apparently the latest Colorado perpetrator was an avid role-playing gamer. Is there a connection, some people wonder? Could video games actually be having enough of an influence on young people to cause them to blur the lines of definition between fantasy and reality? Could video games be making young people so accustomed to extreme virtual violence that they must seek fulfillment in extremism elsewhere, i.e. real life?

I don’t know if there’s a direct link. I’m not enough of an expert in psychology and/or gaming to make that claim. But I do believe that there’s a deep societal disconnect in the way we feel about violence and the way we treat violence. We all condemn gun crime and wish it didn’t exist on our streets, yet we allow our children to play at being pretend gangsters and terrorists on their computer and video games. We tell our kids that aggressive behaviour is not appropriate, yet their minds are being filled with it by watching action movies. Encounters with blood and guts give us the creeps, yet that’s all we see on the news and read about in the paper. We’re obsessed with the very things that we’re scared of and know to be fundamentally wrong.

This is my lament. Too many kids nowadays are being raised on a diet of incessant violence. Images bombard them from every direction – TV, Internet, movies, games, news. Not only is it portrayed graphically, it’s downright glamourized. For example, why does a national newspaper feel the need to outline the Colorado shooter’s precise attack approach, from photos of his car parked outside to his route into the movie theatre? Not only does it increase my own paranoia, but it sends the clear and dangerous message that high-profile violence gets media attention; it makes a person instantly famous; it will never be forgotten. (See post Down with Sensationalism.)

If we truly want violence to decrease in our everyday life, people need to start eliminating the potential influences on the younger generation. If that requires tossing the TV, out the window and spending a bit more time playing with your kids, just do it. If it means putting drastic limitations on the kinds of movies your kids can watch, just do it, despite the fits of protest. If it takes refusing to let your kid play extremely violent video games, just shut up and do it. Imagine how ridiculous it would be to tell our kids, “Smoking will kill you,” while giving them fake plastic cigarettes to carry around the house for fun! How are violent games any different?

Why have we become so complacent and accepting of what’s ‘normal’ for kids to do? Why not stand back and truly assess what we’re feeding their brains? Living even a little bit more deliberately and consciously can only help, and it’s only common sense that reducing ‘pretend’ violence will likely reduce deadly violence.

Photo: Leasepics / Creative Commons

7 thoughts on “First, let’s reduce the pretend violence.

  1. Sad events no doubt. I disagree that games/movies/TV are that strong of an influence, though I agree that kids shouldn’t be exposed to as much violence as they are.

    Very interesting essay by Marilyn Manson following the Columbine shootings, that some news outlets blamed him for.

    1. Hey Brent,
      Thanks for the link. Manson’s article is really interesting. I agree completely with this comment: “Isn’t killing just killing, regardless if it’s in Vietnam or Jonesboro, Arkansas? Why do we justify one, just because it seems to be for the right reasons?” That’s something I’ve been struggling with for a while.
      He’s right in that we can’t blame specific people for causing kids to be this way, but I still maintain that our entire culture of violence-worship has to end before we see any change in what’s going on around us.

  2. Completely agree with you on the sensationalism and media over-dose that is an inevitability these days. However I remain firm in my belief that blaming the movies and video-games is a bit knee-jerk.
    Bear in mind that I say this as a child born and raised through the 80’s and 90’s – an era that saw the true birth of the action heroes, the guys who didn’t care and blew s*** up left right and centre, shot people as a matter of course and always got the hottest girls, etc, etc, etc… And these are the guys who (take the entire Expendables cast-list as an example) are still the bench-mark and at times the go-to guys for some bad-ass characters.

    What I do agree on without a doubt is that parents need to be a little more proactive in restraining what their kids can do. They should and need to utilise the advantages, abilities and knowledge that the newer technologies can give them – like a computer and the net – but why do more parents not have net-nanny software? Or a limited internet connection so that you can’t download beyond a point of volume? There are any number of ways, just using that as an example, that parents could have control over their kids.
    And a trend that exists in the west of coddling and letting your kids become monsters and not controlling them and becoming obsessively “P-C”, well it disturbs me. And it’s spreading. Check this guy out (interestingly he’s Indo-canadian! :D), it’s a bit extreme on both sides, but makes my point in terms of the difference in the line between parents and kids:

    And just so you know, my folks never really beat me – I can count on 1 hand the number of times I took a whooping, and when I looked back as I got older I realised the reason and learned from it. My sis never got hit and once my mum even apologised to me after and talked to me about it.
    It’s so easy to blame everyone outside – but parents the world over need to see what their kids are and see what they themselves are doing, admit their faults and deal with them.

    But maybe that’s just me.

    1. I love Russell Peters!!! He’s Canadian, too. And I know that clip well… my husband does an amazing imitation of it 🙂
      I know exactly the kind of Western kid he’s describing. It’s insane how parents seem to lose control over their kids, or at least lose perspective on what they’re actually supposed to be doing: RAISING kids.

      1. Very true!
        And I know he’s Canadian 😀 Did an interview with him once for a magazine I worked at some years ago, he is actually a pretty funny dude in general because I was trying not to burst out more than a few times during that. 😀

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