From Where Does Such Violence Come

By Shiela K. Haynes

It is hard to watch the news these last few weeks. School shootings are the most horrific thing imaginable. As a parent and grandparent, my greatest fear was always that my child might be afraid, and I might not be there to protect and comfort them. The idea that someone would attack the most innocent among us makes no sense. I can’t begin to understand such senseless acts.

I have no idea how to protect potential victims. We are not living in “Minority Report” where people are arrested for what they might do. But I do suspect the warning signs are there well in advance and have been ignored. Young people who have grown up without making important connections and building relationships seem to be at risk. We should be alarmed by people who abuse animals, abuse family members, and abuse substances.

What has happened in our society that acts of violence are common. There are plenty of fingers pointing at the milestones in our precipitous decline.

I was reading a post this week by a kindergarten teacher. She was packing up her classroom for the last time and heading into retirement. She shared things that concerned her about the content her students were exposed to at home on a regular basis. Violent video games and graphic music were on the list.

She said it is not unusual for five- and six-year-old students to play violent video games. Is it really all right for a small child to play a game where the object is to shoot everyone they encounter, and the goal is to inflict maximum damage with as much gore as possible? These games are hyper realistic by design.

I remember reading many years ago that children under the age of 12 should not be taken to haunted houses because younger children are not able to separate what is real from what is just spooky pretend.

In the early 1990s when my children were small, Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the top kid shows. I had a friend who had banned her young son from watching the Turtles. He would sit in front of the television with a bandana tied around his head and an empty wrapping paper tube (his weapon of choice) strapped to his back. Then after watching, he would go through the motions he had watched. The afternoon frequently ended with the little guy kicking his sister in the stomach or attacking a playmate. He lost the privilege of watching, but my friend thought the ban should extend to his friends as well.

I chatted with a close friend about the situation at the time. My friend happened to hold a doctorate in clinical psychology, and she worked primarily with children. Her answer was simple. If your child can watch the Turtles and not kick other kids in the stomach, then they can watch it. But if your child watches and then attacks, then that child should not watch the Turtles. Not a one-size-fits-all answer. But a wise one.

Violent video games have warnings. They are designed for adults, not children. Why would a parent turn a blind eye?

When parents listen to graphic and violent music in the car or at home, then their children hear the message on repeat. So much of our music preaches violence, anarchy, misogyny, hate, and disrespect. Why are we filling our children’s heads with this?

Kids hop on their devices and watch YouTube videos. A lot of good stuff is available. Who doesn’t love Baby Shark? But without proper supervision, children can be exposed to some pretty disturbing content.

Decades ago, parents were scolded for letting the television babysit the kids. We all have busy lives. We all need a break. But, as a society, we are exposing our children to a multitude of questionable content every day. Let’s do better.