Do violence in the media and interactive entertainment, such as video games and movies, influence children to have the will to kill? According to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, an expert on the psychology of killing, both play a big role in child murders. There are several methods to this madness by which people can actually motivate themselves to take another human life, such as, operant conditioning, classical conditioning, brutalization, and role models. These practices are used in the military to train soldiers to kill, just as the media is doing to our children.
Monday, December 1st, 1997 began like any other day for the students of Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. Student Michael Carneal rode to school with his sister, carrying with him, what he claimed to be, an art project. As his fellow classmates gathered that morning in the lobby of the school, holding a prayer group, he fired eight rounds from a . 22 caliber pistol. Out of those eight rounds he landed five head shots and three upper torso shots, killing three teenagers. Not only did he land all eight shots, but the shots were so precise that elite military and law enforcement agencies were stunned by his expertise.
The fact that he had never fired a real gun in his life was something that disturbed authorities even more. Nowhere in the records of military or law enforcement history could the “equivalent” achievement be found. So what was it that made this young man so violent and deadly at such a young age? (“The shooting,” 2010, para. 1) It’s one of the methods used by the military to train their soldiers called operant conditioning, a powerful procedure of stimulus-response training techniques that attempt to influence behavior by manipulating reinforcers.
They learn to fire at realistic figures that pop up in the field. The stimulus is the target, and the response is, shooting to kill. This procedure is repeated over and over, hundreds of times, until their natural response when someone pops up on the battlefield is to kill. Research has suggested that violent video games played a big role in the choice Michael made that day. He was trained through operant conditioning just as the soldiers are, except his was through violent video games. Following the shooting there was a $130-million law suit filed against the video game manufacturers in that case.
This case is said to be working its way through the appeals system of the courts. (Metcalf, Stubblefield, & Ettinger, 2011, p. 152) Violent video games train our children to kill, glorify violence, desensitize them to suffering, and trivialize violence. Every time a child plays an interactive video game, he or she is learning the exact same conditioned reflex skills as a soldier or police officer in training. Kids are playing more and more violent video games that are rated for a mature audience.
So, ask yourself this question; how do fourteen year old teenagers obtain video games that are rated “Mature? ” Better yet, why are they allowed by their parents to play the evil, sadistic games? Parents should replace the violent video games with non-violent, stimulating, and educational games; those which enhance knowledge, creativity and imagination. The violent crime rate is at a phenomenally high level, not just in America, but worldwide. According to Interpol, the per capita assault rate increased nearly fivefold in Norway and Greece between the years of 1977 and 1993.
In Mexico and Brazil, the numbers are skyrocketing, and in Japan juvenile crime went up by thirty percent in 1997 alone. (Metcalf, Stubblefield, & Ettinger, 2011, p. 150). The virus of violent crime is occurring worldwide, and the explanation for it has to be some new factor that is occurring in all of these countries. There are many factors involved in the action of violent crime, and we must never downplay any of them. There is only one new variable present in each of these nations, and it is that media violence is now being presented as a viable entertainment option for children. Metcalf et al. , 2011, p. 150) Another method used by the Japanese, in World War II, which we also see done with the media, is classical conditioning.
This technique is best remembered as Pavlovian conditioning, associating a stimulus with a response according to a specific reinforcement schedule, such as violence linked to pleasure. As Pavlov did with the dog, by associating the bell with food and eventually the dog could not hear the bell without salivating, the media does with the children. How often do we watch the news and learn of something good that has happened in the world?
They are always focusing on all of the violence that is going on in the world. Our children see this as well, and they learn to associate death with pleasure. To better understand the role that violence and the media inherit, in the entertainment complex, plays in the increase of murders among the young and impressionable. We must first look at the methods by which killers can be made. Though such a difficult subject cannot be completely explained by these factors alone, it is important to note the contribution each one makes.
Throughout the course of human history, it is thought that healthy members of most species have a natural resistance to killing their own kind. However, when human beings are overwhelmed with anger and fear, thought processes become primitive. We slam head-on into that hardwired resistance against killing. One of the methods that shift this natural resistance is what is commonly known as brutalization. Quite similar to a military boot camp, brutalization is a forced shift in values. The subject is made to conform to a new set of rules, abandoning all sense of individuality.
They are trained relentlessly in a total immersion environment and the end result is a person who not only embraces the violence and the discipline, but accepts them as normal and an essential survival skill in a new and increasingly brutal world. (Metcalf et al. , 2011, p. 151) A very similar thing is happening to our children through violence in the media. At eighteen months old, a child can begin to understand and mimic what they see on television, and up until the ages of six or seven they are physically, developmentally, and psychologically unable to distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality.
When they see an instance of rape, murder or degradation on the television or in the media, to them it is real. Some of them welcome the violence and accept it as a normal and vital survival skill in a cruel, new world. In nations, regions and cities where television is a constant source of entertainment, there is an immediate eruption of playground violence, and within fifteen years, there is a doubling of the murder rate, but why fifteen years? That’s how long it takes for a desensitized toddler to reach their “prime crime” years. Metcalf et al. , 2011, p. 151) By the time the brutalized toddlers have reached their teenage years, they have developed role models. Today, violence in the media is providing our children with role models.
When the images of young killers are broadcast on television, they become role models. The media has every right and responsibility to tell the story, but they have no right to glorify the killers by presenting their images on television. (Grossman, 2000, p. ) The ultimate achievement for our children is to get their picture on television, and with such vulnerable, young minds they are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that. I say it is time for the world to stop televising such violence and let law enforcement deal with it. If they know who the killer is then why does it have to be broadcast for our children to see? I truly believe that the media is highly responsible for a lot of killings in this world, along with the violent video games, and I pray that one day there will be something done to stop it.
Courtney from Study Moose
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