No Kidding! Pediatricians Recommend Reducing Children’s Exposure to ‘Virtual Violence’

July 18th, 2016 3:56 PM

It’s a pretty common occurrence. On screen, an actor wields a gun, glamorizing the act of killing in a blockbuster action flick. Off screen, he promotes firearms control, bemoaning America’s gun culture. (Sound like Matt Damon?)

Hollywood has always been hypocritical when it comes to guns. In the wake of several violent tragedies this summer, that hypocrisy has only mounted. Yet, amid extensive discussion of gun control, some research professionals have resurrected the most sensible question – what role does virtual violence play in the disturbing surge of atrocities we have witnessed lately? Are we encouraging aggression in children?

In a recent statement headed by Dr. Dimitri Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, pediatricians recommended that parents play a more active role in monitoring what their children are watching. As technology advances, virtual experiences are becoming more immersive, and therefore more intense. Children who are already prone to aggression will be more affected that children who are not. Thus, instead of imposing quantity restrictions on children’s screen time, parents should monitor the quality of the programming that their children are consuming. This is not limited to shows, movies and video games, but also includes news. The latter may show repeated graphic images of terror attacks or shootings, and small children may believe each new photo refers to a separate incident.  

To make a parent’s job easier, the group of pediatricians published some excellent guidelines for the media (which certainly aren’t original). First, the entertainment industry should stop creating content that glamorizes violence and start creating more positive content. Since the entertainment industry’s rating system is flawed, policy-makers should create one that is more user-friendly for parents. Finally, the news media should clearly acknowledge that there is a correlation between on-screen violence and increased aggression.

Will the media get on board? If Matt Damon really cared about gun violence, would he stop glamorizing it on screen? It’s probably easier to make big bucks while stating that America can’t have “sensible” discussions about gun control. "Obviously mass shootings aren't going to do it,” the celeb stated in an interview about his new “Bourne” film. “There have been so many of them at this point. Sandy Hook, when those children were murdered, if that didn't do it, you know, I just don't know. Maybe we just need to evolve further before we can have that conversation, I don't know."

And maybe the media also needs to “evolve further” before they can discuss their own role in America’s state of affairs.