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Does a Steady Diet of On-Screen Gore Lead to Violence and Apathy?

I have been sickened by the places the human mind can go when it's allowed to.

My dad had to sit with me every night for a solid month. A MONTH!

If those lights went out, I was terrified! No amount of rational or sane thought would drive out the images clawing through my little brain. I knew, I mean I just knew that if I went to sleep that he would get me. And when I say he… there’s only one person I could be talking about: Freddy Krueger!

Oh he paralyzed me with fear. I was about 10 the first time I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street. The only problem was that I wasn’t allowed to see movies like that. And now I’m having horrific nightmares about him? Even at that young of an age I knew that this equation didn’t quite add up. So I told my parents that the huge cardboard cutout of Freddy at the local movie store was the culprit. And thankfully they bought it (sorry, Mom & Dad).

But the truth was that my friend down the street had the movie. His older sister had rented the VHS and left it lying around. And so that next day after school we watched it at his house. 

It was so awesome! I knew I shouldn’t be watching it, which made me want to all the more and the fact that Mike’s parents could be home any time coupled with the terror on the screen made it the scariest movie made in the history of film. I was glued from the get go. Even when Freddy started slashing his way through those sleeping teens, I couldn’t look away.

Images of gore and blood and murder and violence washed over my brain for the first time in my life. I couldn’t grasp everything that was taking place but I knew that I wouldn’t be sleeping anytime soon.

That movie was my first taste of Hollywood slasher flicks. It wasn’t my last but I haven’t been able to stomach gore movies for some time now. I can’t get over the depravity of what’s happening to the on screen characters. I have been sickened by where the human mind can go when allowed to.

And opening very soon across this nation of ours is another remake of an old slasher film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D. One can only imagine why a chainsaw-wielding maniac is being filmed in 3D except to up the gore factor.

Not only do we have films like these coming out all the time but they are massive money makers and will continue to be made because of that.

Add to all of these movies are the overabundance of violent video games. Parenting.com has a great list of the most violent games to stay away from and on this list are two of the most popular games in the market today: Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. Both of which are incredibly realistic first-person shooter games that place the players in the middle of wars that hit very close to home. (http://www.parenting.com/gallery/violent-video-games) Some of these games are so ultra-violent that old violence games such as Grand Theft Auto don’t even make the list despite the fact that you can pimp out hookers, do drugs, murder, steal, and have simulated sex as part of the game.

Add to all of these movies and the overabundance of violent video games all of the images of violence and death our kids will see on normal TV programing. The University of Michigan released their findings of a compiling of many studies. In this release they state that ”on average, children ages 2-5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV—watching television, DVDs, DVR and videos, and using a game console. Kids ages 6-11 spend about 28 hours a week in front of the TV. The vast majority of this viewing (97%) is of live TV.”

They also state that, “Literally thousands of studies since the 1950s have asked whether there is a link between exposure to media violence and violent behavior. All but 18 have answered, "Yes." The evidence from the research is overwhelming. According to the AAP, "Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed." Watching violent shows is also linked with having less empathy toward others.”

In two-thirds of all programing there are depictions of violence and by the time your child reaches 12th grade they will have seen 200,000 acts of violence and 16,000 murders on screen. (http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm)

I am not a reactionary and nor do I believe in censorship. But I do believe in common sense and the old adage of “Garbage in, garbage out” has to hold some water.

In light of the recent tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut and the ongoing debate of gun control how can we responsibly not look at the very things we are feeding into our children’s collective conscience? How can we as a culture argue about the weapons used but not even look at the ammunition that we’ve given an entire generation?

If we as a society want to have an intellectually honest debate about automatic weapons and high capacity rounds then let’s have it. But in this dialogue we would be dishonest if we didn’t at least look at what our children are being subjected to from a very early age.

You can’t convince me that a steady stream of violent images do not affect the growing psychology of a young impressionable mind. And if that young impressionable mind is already predisposed towards acts of violence what happens when it’s fed a steady diet of violence?

Hear me when I say this: I am not blaming any of our school shootings on video games, TV or movies. But they do have a place in this discussion.

If virtually every study ever done since the 1950’s has concluded that viewing these images does affect our children in negative ways then how can we sit by and continue to allow that to happen? How can we, as responsible parents believe that it’s ok for our students to flock to gore movies like Saw or Texas Chainsaw Massacre or _____________ (insert any number of films) and not expect that it’s going to negatively affect some of them? It’s asinine to believe that what our children listen to and see does not have any impact on them at all.

Yes let’s talk about gun violence in our culture. Yes, let’s talk about violent depictions in our children’s media. But here’s the cold hard truth–it’s our responsibility! We are the PARENTS! It’s not the government’s job to police my children. It’s not the government’s job to raise my children and give them a strong moral foundation.

 It’s–surprise–MINE!

And it’s your job. I’m sick and tired of seeing our kids murder each other. I’m sick and tired of seeing our kids bully each other. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. It’s time we all woke up to the very real reality that we may shoulder much of blame in all of this.

So the next time the big new slasher flick comes out or the next time the big new first person shooter game comes out maybe we should ask ourselves “Is this appropriate for my child? Is this something that’s going to benefit their growing minds?” And if it doesn’t then we can show them that we love them by saying,

“No.”

You are the parent and you can do that.

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