Violent Video Games: Not a Scapegoat for Teen Violence

video games, gamers, teen violence, teen anger, aggression, media influenceMonique is a sixteen year old girl living in Louisiana. She is a writer, dancer, and actress who enjoys playing video games and learning about others. Her favorite subjects are English, History, and Science; she plans to attend college and get a PhD in a related field.

 

Anger is a human emotion that we must learn to deal with over time. Although the emotion is always the same, the coping mechanisms vary from person to person. A teenager dealing with these emotions is especially difficult, and finding out how to properly cope with it is even harder. Parents in this generation do not focus enough on teaching their children the proper way to cope with their emotions. Therefore when something that upsets them happens they explode. Sometimes teenagers will result to violence to cure their anger. The degrees and types of violence vary from verbal violence, cyber bullying, physical bullying, and sometimes it can even come to the point of extreme acts of violence such as school shootings and murder. When such extreme acts of violence occur the media seems quick to blame things such as violent video games and other media like it. While violent videos games may not be the best for potentially violent teenagers it does not make a killer.

The media is so quick to jump on violent video games being the cause of aggression, however  never stops to think that maybe a violent video game can help lesson aggression. When asked if he thought violent video games caused anger and aggression 16-year-old Edwin McGuffin replied by saying, “No, I don’t. I find that video games actually help reduce it. When I get mad I just jump on my Xbox instead of taking it out on others.” His response is quite similar to the results found by the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media. While many people are quick to blame video games for violence The Harvard Medical Center dug deeper into the subject to figure out the real reasons children play video games. 61.9% of the children tested said they played video games to, “help them relax,” 47.8% said it helped them forget their problems, 45.4% said it helped them get rid of their anger, and 81.4% said they liked the competition of it. None of the results included “the joy of harming others.” The entire report can be found here.

When Seth Daudey was asked about what he thought of the people blaming violence of video games his response was, “I think they’re pretty ignorant and illy informed.” With certain statistics and reports it’s kind of hard not to agree with him. According to the sales charts provided by The Entertainment Software Association’s website, video game sales have gone up in the past few years and the total number of arrests of juveniles has gone down a notable amount in the same time period.  According to police records in the United States alone, between the years of 1995 and 2008 the arrests of juveniles who committed the act of murder had gone down around 72 percent. In those 14 years video game sales had also topped 21 billion dollars in the United States. Also in this time frame the famous video game known for it’s violence, Grand Theft Auto was releases and three of it’s sequels. Another example that there is no proof in video games causing violence is Japan’s video game sales. Anyone who has a love for video games knows that Japan is boss when it comes to gaming. In 2005, per capita video game sales in Japan reached forty-seven dollars while The United States sales were only five dollars and twenty-one cents. In the same year, According to Japan’s Ministry of Justice and FBI records, Japan had a mere 73 murders committed by teenagers while the United States had 2,279 murders committed by teenagers. The above statistics show that violence and video games cannot be directly related to each other and the people accusing them of being directly related are not informed properly.

I believe wholeheartedly that video games have a bad reputation because some people who love them are unable to distinguish fact from fiction and committed violent acts because of it. One of the main things any human being must understand is that their favorite media is not real. It is simply figments of another persons mind brought to life and made to look, feel, and sound real. Most young people who play video games understand this concept very well. However, for the few that do not how can the video game be blamed for this? By law, the Entertainment Software Rating Board is required to put ratings on video games so that parents know what their children are accessing. Children under the age of seventeen are not allowed to buy M for Mature games unless they are with an adult, usually a parent. In most game stores the contents of the games are even read out loud to the parents before they buy the game for their child. As a parent you should be monitoring what you child accesses. My suggestion is to take it upon yourself to figure out what your child is playing and whether or not they can psychologically handle the content. Do your research and go to www.esrb.org for more information on ratings. Just remember, A video game is not to blame for a child’s inability to distinguish fact from fiction. As 16-year-old Austyn Adams said, “If Video games actually caused violence everyone who played them would be violent,” And they’re not. Children who commit violent crimes are born or nurtured with an aggressive nature, and because of that aggressive nature they are drawn towards more violent and aggressive video games. Crimes such as school shootings are not caused by the shooter playing a video game. Those crimes are cause by psychological problems provoked by issues at home and at school. Bullying and psychological problems, which is the real reason for school shootings and crimes, are failed to be realized by many teachers, parents, and peers which leads to dangerous consequences.  A violent person may get an idea from a video game; however, the video games do not make them snap. It is years of thoughts, voices, torment, and much more that makes a killer snap. When a shooting or threat occurs it is everyone and everything’s fault. You cannot narrow down the exact reason behind these acts because there are so many components to it that no one but the killer will be able to understand. As shown through all of the above, a violent video game obsession is a warning and not a cause.

Violent video games, if anything, may be considered a warning sign for violence, but violent video games do not actually cause the violence. We overlook many aspects that we can potentially blame and go straight to what is considered by most to be harmless fun. Arguing that violent video games cause violence is an excuse to overlook  psychological problems, extreme bullying, or being completely oblivious; it will not prevent anything. Even though debating this issue will not stop school violence, a news report did a segment after the Columbine shooting in which many experts gave their opinions on what made Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold commit such a horrendous crime. These experts gave every answer under the sky as to what would possibly be the root of the killers violent acts; many of which was video games. However, in this report Marilyn Manson, who was also being considered one reason that pushed those students to try to kill their peers, made quote that truly describe what we fail to do. When Manson was asked what he would say to those young men he said, “I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they had to say. That’s_ what nobody else did.” We are caught up in statistics and trying to dig up a deeper meaning in order to stop these violent crimes form happening. However, we can not truly pinpoint the cause of violence unless we are in someone else’s head. Once again, video games are not the source of violence and never have been. With that said, these harmless games can no longer be our scapegoat for our inability to open up our minds and ears to see and listen to what is right in front of us. The true reason for violence is not in violent video games. It is written invisibly on victims faces, body bags, in malicious writing, rivers of blood flowing down empty hallways and in they eyes of the killers, bullies, parents, teachers and friends. We just have to look closer, stop blaming, and listen.

As the biggest video game nerd out there my suggestion to any parent still worried is to listen and observe their child. I am in no way saying that it’s okay for your child to play bloody-thirsty games all day. However, I want to spread light on how even if they do play those games it doesn’t make them bullies or killers. Talk and listen to your child about these games and how they’re not real and never will be. Also, make sure that you are aware of what they’re playing and if it has any effect on how they behave. If it does, I suggest consulting a trained professional about it. If you notice your child doesn’t know how to control their anger and video games just make it worse try and come up with constructive ways to help them deal with their anger to avoid violence. Examples are: writing, dancing, sports, other sorts of exercise, yoga, etc. However, what I would like to stress most is that you should try and notice if they have trouble at school or with teachers. If your child confides in you about their troubles try your best to help them fix it. This can be the biggest step in helping them avoid lashing out in drastic manors. Just remember to keep and open mind about everything and do what’s best for your child and their wellbeing.

 

 

Photo Credit: ChipperMist

 

 

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