Stop blaming violent media



Opinion columnist Sam King discusses the tendency to blame violent media and video games in the wake of mass shootings.

SAM KING, Opinion Columnist

It is exceptionally rare for me to write an article that has anything to do with politics. I much prefer writing opinion pieces about recent media events and discussing the impacts of them.

This topic is about media so I feel like I’m staying within my boundaries, but this will also involve some political discourse, so please bear with me.

As a result of the tragic and terrible shooting in Parkland, Florida last month, a lot questions have arisen regarding what to do to prevent another shooting like it. Gun control, government competence and even arming teachers have all been brought up these past few weeks.

Another issue was added into the pool too: moderating violent media, as it so clearly makes young people violent.

This upset me. Firstly, this argument has been shut down many, many times by legitimate research. Secondly, it feels like a poor attempt to distract from the real issues.

For those that may be in doubt about how violence in media affects young adults, allow me to cite some research.

The Scientific American states that there is no causal relationship between violent acts and violent video games and that the violence of video games is more akin to play for a child than actual violence.

Another study took place back in the 1960s in which small children were shown a video of a man beating a doll. The children were then given a doll, and they played with it violently, but Psychology Today dismisses this research, which is still used by some to explain why violent media is bad.

It was dismissed because the study only proved that very young children will tend to mimic adult behavior. It was also determined to be purposely designed to elicit a violent reaction in children instead of being unbiased or neutral.

The American Psychology Association has done a great deal of research over violent media, as well as specifically violent video games. They found that massive consumption of violent media for hours and hours per day as a young child may result in violent behavior; however, consumption of violent media as a teenager seemed to have no effect.

A study did point that violent video games could potentially decrease a teenager’s sensitivity to violence, but the study is heavily criticized as it does not accurately take into account mental health issues and family influences.

There are dozens of websites and articles I can cite. It would be pointless to do so as they all say the same thing — that is, violent media may potentially have an effect on small children, but it has no serious relationship with young adults or teenagers.

As a personal statement, I’ve been playing violent video games and watching movies containing violence for years. Despite that, I’ve never perpetrated any kind of violent act. I have many friends who consume similar media, but none of us are killers.

It’s time we stop blaming media when it has nothing to do with the problem at hand. I’m not the only one who thinks so either.

Polygon published an article expressing similar exhaustion at this topic. They also discussed how “we don’t need to give up the 1st amendment to protect the 2nd.”

Surely, we can safely put this issue to bed. It’s been dead since 2011 when the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association case was decided.

This case was over a 2005 California law that attempted to ban the sale of video games to minors that were not directly under a parent’s supervision. The Supreme Court found that this would infringe on free speech.

That means we don’t have to blame violent media or video games anymore, right? Well that’s apparently not true.

Our president is actually planning on meeting with executives from the video game industry to discuss this very issue; however, the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the gaming industry, has heard nothing about such a meeting (National Review).

Other Republicans, such as Senator Lamar Alexander, have explicitly stated that video games are a bigger problem than guns (Tech Crunch).

Wow. Okay. I guess all that research just doesn’t matter.

Like it or not, people play video games and watch movies that have violence in them. Most Millennials and Gen Z’ers have played or continue to play video games of all types. 99 percent of teenagers play video games, as well (CS Monitor).

 Despite all that violent media, there aren’t hordes of violent college students or teenagers. That’s a pretty good sign that it’s time to stop blaming violent media.