With recent discussion of how the media plays a very large role in our families' lives, the nation has undergone a tragedy that in part may have been caused by the ever-present violence in the media today. Could continuing the communication with tweens and teenaged children have saved four lives in Chardon, Ohio earlier this week?
Media violence ranges from cartoon slapstick to bloody gore, and it's in everything our kids watch and play. If you've tried a T- or M- rated video game lately, or seen a cop show or music video, you've seen this kind of violence. It's in practically every form of kids' entertainment. Video games allow players to attack and kill one another, sometimes in very graphic ways. Studies show that aggressive video gaming affects kids. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that "playing violent video games leads to adolescent violence like smoking leads to lung cancer." You may ask yourself why it matters.
When kids watch media and play games loaded with violence, studies show it can lead to harmful acts and bullying as well as making your child think that performing these acts is proper. And the more aggressive behavior kids see, the more it becomes an acceptable way to settle conflicts. They may even become less sensitive to those who suffer from real violence by not stopping bullying or fights when they see them occur.
Younger kids are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of media violence, especially kids under 7, who often can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality. The younger kids are, the more long lasting the effects. These include nightmares and anxiety, and fearing that the world is scary and mean.
Common Sense Media provides these suggestions for parents when it comes to talking about violence with children.
Explain consequences: What parent hasn't heard "but there's no blood" as an excuse for watching a movie or playing a video game? Explain the true consequences of violence. Point out how unrealistic it is for people to get away with violent behavior.
Keep an eye on the clock: Don't let kids spend too long with virtual violence. The more time spent immersed in violent content, the greater its impact and influence.
Teach conflict resolution: Most kids know that hitting someone on the head isn't the way to solve a disagreement, but verbal cruelty is also violent. Teach kids how to use their words responsibly to stand up for themselves without throwing a punch.
Know your kids' media: Check out ratings and, when there are none, find out about content. Content in a 1992 R-rated movie is now acceptable for a PG-13. Streaming online videos are not rated and can showcase very brutal stuff.
Be proactive: Encourage your kids to talk about any strange behavior, rumors, etc. of any other students who may need help. Empowering kids to be part of the solution gives them the ability to be proactive in the future.
Although we may not find out the exact cause of the recent school shooting for a while or ever we must be proactive in our stance on protecting our children from violent influences and unsupervised exposure to inappropriate material. No matter what you believe, safeguarding our children from violence against anyone, including themselves, is paramount.
Make sure your kids understand that violence is not a solution. Ever. It's just a catalyst for anger, sadness and revenge. Explain to them that the solution is not easy but well worth it. And it begins with them.