By Mac Newman
The Harbinger Online (Prairie Village, Kansas)
I play FIFA – but I haven’t been recruited by FC Barcelona. I play Rocket League – but I don’t try to jump my car over ramps. I also play Call of Duty, Battlefield, and other violent video games – but I would never bring an AR–15 to school.
President Donald Trump held a series of meetings with lawmakers and video game company CEOs to discuss school safety and the influence of violent video games on Feb. 22 and again March 1 a week after the Parkland, FL shooting. Trump claimed violent video games and movies play a role in school shootings. This claim has been made before and will be made in the future – but I believe it is false and supported by little to no evidence.
Despite Trump’s claims that the Internet, video games, and movies are to blame for wrongly shaping young minds, violent entertainment is not the cause of school violence.The media and legislature need to be focusing on and blaming the true culprit: gun control and mental illness.
“We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed, and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it,” Trump said.
According to ProCon.org, as many as 97% of US kids age 12-17 play video games, contributing to the $21.53 billion domestic video game industry. More than half of the 50 top-selling video games in the US contain violence. But, according to psychology experts Dr. Patrick Markey and Dr. Christopher Ferguson, Justice Antonin Scalia and professor Henry Jenkins, they do not promote aggression or violence in kids.
Crime in young people has been decreasing since 2005. Henry Jenkins, a professor at the University of Southern California, wrote an essay in 2005 for PBS that said juvenile crime in the United States was at a 30-year low even though large numbers of young people play video games.
In a book published in 2017 titled “Mortal Kombat,” psychologists Markey and Ferguson claim that the countries where video games are the most popular are the safest in the world. In Japan, for example, about 60 percent of the population played video games in 2016, according to NewZoo, a gaming market research company. But almost no one is killed by a gun in the country, which bans possessing, carrying, selling, or buying handguns or rifles. There were only six gun deaths in Japan in 2014. The countries that purchase the most video games in the world, Japan, and South Korea, are some of the safest too.
Even the US Supreme Court rejected the idea that violent video games are the main cause of real-life violent crimes. In 2011, Justice Antonin Scalia rejected the claim that violent video games promote real-life violence. The case ruled seven to two in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association that California could not ban the sale of violent video games to children.
Justice Scalia said that psychological studies that show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not have enough evidence to prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively.
There should be shift in efforts from banning violent video games towards helping children and teens with mental illness and on improving gun control laws.
According to the LA Times, at least 59 percent of the 185 public mass shootings that took place in the United States from 1900 through 2017 were carried out by people who had either been diagnosed with a mental disorder or demonstrated signs of serious mental illness prior to the attack. Mental illness is what causes people to commit school shootings; the media needs to start raising more awareness for young people with mental illnesses and how to see the warning signs.
In addition, Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, used an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle during the attack that was bought legally. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart have both raised the age to purchase firearms to 21, but there has yet to be a nationwide federal law instituted to raise the age, something that should happen.
The fact is, older generations will always fear what the newer generation is exposed to. In the past, it was “The Silent Generation” (born in the ‘30s) fearing that the young are being exposed to too much sex on TV. In our case, the baby boomers fear that the millennials and Gen Z children are being exposed to more violence and more sex on the Internet.
All in all, it’s virtually impossible to prevent young people from seeing violent entertainment. Children are allowed to see R-rated movies, just with a parent. Children can access almost anything online, as long as their parents don’t block it. Without some over-the-line “Black Mirror”-esque media blocking device for children, people will continue to be exposed to violent media at young ages. But it isn’t hurting their minds; they are simply being exposed to something they would see at a later age earlier than in previous generations.
There isn’t a perfect solution, and there doesn’t need to be. Violent media simply does not influence real-life crime. Mental illness and easily obtained firearms is what causes real-life crime – so don’t look to running civilians over in GTA or killing soldiers in Call of Duty, look to depression, bullying, and gun control laws.
Photo Credit: Sarah