Parental responsibility and the power of media

The other night at the video store I overheard a conversation between a mother and her son. The boy was somewhere between 4-6 years old.

Boy: Mommy, look there’s Scream! Can we get it?

Mother: No, I don’t think so, we watched it 6 times last week. Let’s find something else.

A few minutes later, she approached the clerk and asked, “Can you help me find Nightmare on Elm Street?”

Call me a helicopter mom (btw: I don’t care if you do) but I only recently became semi-comfortable with my son seeing gratuitous violence in movies and TV. He’s 14.

It’s interesting to me that discussions about violent or disturbed behavior in kids almost never point to movies as a negative influence, but time and time again video games are made the scapegoat.

A 17-year-old boy charged with murdering his mother and attempting to murder his father when they forbade him from playing Halo3, was recently sentenced to life in prison (trying kids as adults… a discussion for another day). The boy claimed that, because animated characters in video games don’t die forever, but respawn after they are killed, he believed his parents were also immortal. During sentencing, the judge actually placed some of the blame on gaming:

“This Court’s opinion is that we don’t know enough about these video games… It’s my firm belief that after a while the same physiological responses occur that occur in the ingestion of some drugs. And I believe that an addiction to these games can do the same thing… The other dangerous thing about these games, in my opinion, is that when these changes occur, they occur in an environment that is delusional. Because you can shoot these aliens, and they’re there again the next day. You have to shoot them again. And I firmly believe that Daniel Petric had no idea, at the time he hatched this plot, that if he killed his parents, they would be dead forever.”

Let’s pretend for a moment that the judge is not completely out of touch. Life 101=we die! The parent’s felt they were doing the right thing by taking away the boy’s video game, but they were clearly disconnected from the true underlying problems he was dealing with.

The common denominator in both these scenarios, besides media, is parental irresponsibility. What kid by the age of 17 doesn’t know that people die? Further, by that age, the difference between right and wrong should be well established in a person’s psyche. At the same time, I’d like to hear one good justification for allowing the images of murder, torture etc. in slasher films to enter the consciousness of young children.

I’m not saying violent movies make violent kids. I’m not saying violent video games do either. What I’m exploring is the possibility that psychological/behavioral disturbances are created, at least in part, by the stupidity and obliviousness of distracted, ill-informed parents who fail to protect their kids through responsible censorship of their entertainment media.


One Comment to “Parental responsibility and the power of media”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more about the responsibility of parents to monitor and manage the media exposure their children receive. (Slasher films? Hell, no one at ALL should be exposed to them!) Is this difficult to do, these days? Hell yeah. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be DONE. // 3-4-5 centuries ago, children didn’t have a “childhood” as we think of it. They were simply exposed immediately to an adult world and survived as best they could. In America and much of the world, today, children are eerily and tragically exposed in the same way. // Recommended: “The Medium is the Massage–An Inventory of Effects” by Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore. (1967)

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