My media psychology professor is an awkwardly charming, middle-aged white man with thick rimmed glasses who ocassionally disrupts our facebook browsing during his class by pointedly saying 'I can't tell you what's in the exam but this is Very Important. But I was already paying attention, not just because I'm a mature student with too much coffee in her blood, but because we were examining The Effects of Media Violence.
As a Mum of three, I confess. The iPad is Mummy's Little Helper. Quarter of an hour screen time may have been allowed to slip past the thirty minute mark on occasion. Or further. But with Minecraft and Magic being their main obsessions, I'm hopeful that the divide between reality and fantasy is an easily recognisable chasm. Yet too many bemused parents--maybe just like me--cry in the wake of horrific tragedy; he was just a regular kid who did regular kid things, like video games. In this they are correct. Playing video games of all sorts, is a regular kid activity, at least in my house.
First person shooter games are always brought up after every school shooting and mass murder (as long of course, as the shooter is white). I am not yet in the land where the violent, uncanny-valley first-person shooters reside. I'm navigating suitably feminist Pixar movies and I don't have to make these choices for a few years. But maybe I won't have to. Because as it turns out that the scientific proof so far concludes the effect of violent video games is very weak indeed.
Peter Langman has researched and sourced more research, to provide deeper insight into the question "Why Kids Kill"(2009 New York, NY, Palgrave Macmillan). The absence of evidence for first person shooter games being a factor is difficult to ignore. As my lecturer summarized, first-person shooters are used by some perpetrators, however the diffusion for young men is close to full coverage, meaning that there is no scientific evidence. Most young men play first person shooter games but only a select few become shooters.
A Meta-Analysis is:A research method based on many individual studies in which the average effect or 'effect size' between virtual violence and actual aggression is measured.
In a fabulously named meta-analysis 'Do Angry Birds make Angry Children? 1A meta-analysis of Video game influences on Children's and Adolescents' Aggression, Mental Health, Prosocial behaviour, and Academic Performace Christopher Ferguson also presents his findings of an unremarkable correlation between video games and increased aggression or reduced prosocial [positive and helpful] behaviour. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say being a teenager had a fair amount with being more aggressive and more emo. I'm not dissing the teenage experience, but I may dispute any implied causality.
Langman concluded his work by citing three main factors as to "Why Kids Kill":
- Personality (including disorders and depression)
- Everyday Problems
- Weapons Ownership
We know this. But you can't eradicate every day problems or personality...
Langman's research was published in 2009. Ferguson's research--a good extrapolation I think--was published in 2016.
Where 'r'=correlation coefficient in the table below, the first line reads the more video games were sold in the United States, the slightly less the rate in youth violence. It could mean there's a causality, but more likely it means that the comparison of the two is irrelevant.
There were other positive correlations however--to name just the top five--between genetic influences, cruelty to animals and later people, self-control, opportunity and firearms ownership (oh look, there it is again).
Maybe it's because I'm a Brit--home to the policeman's truncheon. But I was shocked how simple the solution was and how surprisingly accurate my intuition had been. Why don't they ban guns?
I've never seen a gun. Never wanted a gun. But I also know I have the privilege to be born in a place and time which doesn't require this knowledge for my survival.
There are so many battles we have to fight on a daily basis. And we need to focus where we can be the most effective. I'm a mother writes stories about things others don't have time to research. On family dynamics, abuse structures and also plastic-free beauty. And right now at this very second, violent video games and guns (they're not coming in my house, like ever).
To be continued...
I'll be reading this book soon to review. But I warn you, despite my attempts to love myself, I'm not pre-disposed to like Mothers. (Yes, I need to work on that).