Over the past twenty years there have been many “boogie men” when it comes to teen culture. I can remember when I was growing up the bad rap that rock and roll music got. Then there was MTV, or the internet, violent movies… there will always be something to point a finger at.
Now things are getting even worse, and the recent spike in gun violence has turned the nations attention to video games, in particular ulta-violent games such as Activision’s (ATVI) Call of Duty. It is easy to see how this could happen. Yes, these action games are violent and bloody, and the basic thought is that hours upon hours of playing them will desensitize the user.
Of course, this subject is going to a heavily debated topic. On one side of the debate, the video game industry will argue that the games have age restrictions, and that they have the first amendment on their side. They contend that the real responsibility lies with parents, and that after all their games are just that… games. They contend that their games are no different than the violent movies and TV shows that are constantly being watched by millions of children around the world.
On the other side of the debate are psychologists and pediatricians that argue the games are altering minds and leading to a more violent prone society. They have valid points, but at the same time they have to accept that these games typically have an age restriction on their purchase, which granted does not keep them out of the hands of eager young teenagers that can’t wait for the newest action game to hit the market.
Adding fuel to the debate is a recent report from the Sun Newspaper in the U.K., which suggests that Adam Lanza, the shooter in last week’s Connecticut elementary school massacre spent hours in his basement playing violent computer games such as Call of Duty.
Are video games really to blame for shooting sprees such as the one in Connecticut last week? One Senator wants to find out.
Earlier this week, Senator Jay Rocerfeller introduced a bill that would direct the National Academy of Sciences to look into violent games in order to determine the impact that they have on the minds of children that play them. The Democratic Senator is also trying to push the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to widen their studies on the matter as well.
Whenever we see a tragedy on the level as what took place in Connecticut last week we are going to see a lot of finger pointing. Does the blame rest on rock and roll music, violent video games, movies, gun makers, or the nation’s lackluster treatment of the mentally ill?
In my opinion there is no one specific cause to the spike we have seen in violent gun crime in recent years. Perhaps video games play a role, but unlike some of the other problems our teens face, video games are the responsibility of parents, and something that can be controlled, for the most part. Sure, when you kids are at friend’s houses you do not have control over what they are doing… but when they are in your house, if you feel that violent games are bad just don’t buy them.
It is easy to argue that guns are a problem, and it is easy to argue that mental illness is a problem… but not video games. They can be monitored and easily controlled in your homes. It is our responsibility as parents to control them in our homes. The responsibility is ours… we should assume it.
I would prefer my child does not play violent video games, but I want that decision to be mine, not the governments.