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Tis the Season: Will You Be $pending Your Money on Violence for the Kids This Year?

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Put your hands up!” he said, holding his imaginary gun. “BANG!!! You’re DEAD!”

The look in his eyes was playful and he wanted me to think he was being funny…. But, I couldn’t even pretend to crack a smile.  Instead, I glared back at him with this over-exaggerated frown on my face.  I felt bad for a second because I could see that he was disappointed I didn’t want to play his game.  But, my frown didn’t budge.  It COULDN’T budge.  I didn’t know this kid, he was about 8 or 9 years old and was just one of the many kids running around at the playground that day.

What was my problem with this little kid wanting to play “put yer hands up?”

The problem is this: Myself and just about everyone else who is reading this, especially those who are living in the USA, have lived through an age where gun violence and school shootings have reached epidemic proportions.  Mass shootings, especially those in schools, is something that hits home to everyone.  I was in high school when the Columbine High School shooting happened.  Those kids were high school students, just like me… I remember thinking how surely, something like this could never happen again… could it?  COULD IT???  Oh, was I wrong…   It happened again.  And again.  And again.

I was only a recent graduated from a college nearby, when Virginia Tech happened, killing 32 people.  And then, a few years later, as a school teacher myself with young children of my own when, once again… Sandy Hook, which killed 20 young kids only a few years older than my oldest child and six teachers…  Teachers who went to school to do their job every day… just like I did.

Sorry kid at the playground… but I just couldn’t smile and play when you told me to “put your hands up, or you will shoot.”  Where did you learn to say that and who let you think that was funny?

The stereotypical mass shooting criminal, is a young educated male who plays lots and lots of violent video games…  Studies have proven, over and over again, that playing of violent video games increases aggression in children.  And, whether you agree that violent video games produce mass murders or not.. what does anyone have to gain by playing violent video games in the first place?  Or what do we have to gain by watching violent TV shows or movies?  Is there something I’m forgetting?  Did I miss the memo that said violent entertainment does something useful and uplifting to our society?

This post is not about gun laws.  Although, you could probably take a wild guess about my opinion on the matter.  This is about what we can do, as parents, so that we don’t support violence in our society.  Energy grows where attention goes.  A child and young adult’s brain is sensitive and developing in more ways than we can imagine.  Do we have to expose young growing minds to violence on screens that is not necessary?

Sure for 99.99% of the population, violent video games or movies are only life-sucking at best… and will probably not produce mass murderers.  But what about for the .01% of the people watching who might take the violence seriously?  What if their ‘reality filter‘ isn’t working properly and they think that the games they’re playing or the shows they’re watching are real life?  It’s very very scary to think that some people take these games seriously, but for a  small percent of the population, this is exactly what happens.  Even for kids who do have their ‘reality filter‘ working, and know that they’re just playing a game, how does participating in violent forms of entertainment actually benefit them in any way?!

We can say ‘NO’ to the violent entertainment industry!  Really think about it and chose carefully what your children can watch and play.  Let them know that you do not support violence under any circumstance and that you will not participate in any activity that encourages mindless acts of violence.  I’ve played violent video games myself, and I can tell you that I did not learn a single thing from playing them.  Actually, from playing hours of them, I’m sure that I gained ONE THING: empty brain space where some brain cells used to be…

YOU ARE THE CONSUMER.  You have the power to let companies know what you will spend your money on this holiday season and what you think is garbage.  Don’t sell you or your kids short.  Just because ‘everyone else gets to play it‘, or ‘everyone else gets to watch it‘ doesn’t mean you have to give them a license to do it too.  The holidays are coming up, don’t be a sell out!  If you’re going to get things for your kids for Christmas, get them something that will improve their lives.  Ask yourself, “In what way will my kid benefit from playing with or watching this?”  If you’re having trouble justifying it, spend your money on something else!  Buy them a bike, or a set of drums, or a kitten… there are only a million other things to spend your money on.

If you do want to buy a video game, here is a great list of violent video games to AVOID.  Follow the rating systems on the video games and movies and pay close attention to the age recommendations.  If you live in America, sign this petition that is going to the Congress and Senate to stop violence in video games. If you live anywhere on the planet, take a pledge to non-violence actions at NonVio.org.  Acts of violence receive lots of attention, it’s time for the non-violent people to take action!

Maybe I was being a little unfair to the kid at the playground who told me to put my hands up… Maybe next time, I might smile, put my hands up and say, “Ohhhh, ya got me!” But, until I start seeing a trend towards less violence in our society… I will keep my disapproving stink eye in arms reach.  What do you think?

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2 Responses »

  1. Hi Kate,

    Great Post! Hearing the correlation between your life and the school shootings is pretty heart breaking, the States certainly have had far too many of these tragedies. So here are my thoughts about violent play. I am reading more and more about little boys (trying to keep ahead of my little toddler) and the verdict is in, they love rough play. Baddies, heros, guns, swords, warring! Physiologically they have traits that lead to this, one of course being testosterone. Lets face it up till recently in our species existence boys role in society was pretty physical and very much the warrior character.

    With this in mind I think it is extra important to limit the amount of graphic violence they are exposed to. Everything we see is downloaded into our bodies, ready to be used when needed. There is a HUGE difference between boys play and the realistic games and programs that are accepted in society. We have a responsibility to channel their rambunctious energy. Parents who allow “violent” play need to also set boundaries, teaching boys that it is okay to express their inner warrior but they also need to have control of their actions…and I am still forming an opinion on all this so what do you think? (also sorry for the focus on boys)

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you mentioned violent play, because I was thinking about adding this to the post! Play fighting and rough role playing would have been around in societies all around the world from the beginning of time.. even animals do it. In some cultures, it’s even an art form. Also, ‘scary’ fighting stories and stories that talk about heros and villians… I think are all very good and teach children morals and values! But, to have a child ‘sit’ in front of a screen and ‘kill’ fake people with a pull of a fake trigger and see fake blood and guts… I think is very very different than the traditional play fighting and role playing that you speak of.

      Reply

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