The human race is incredibly self-destructive these days. Last week, the controversial school shooting video game “Active Shooter” scheduled to be released to the market June 6 was pulled due to parental and general public outcry. Just as quickly, though, USA Today reported that the content provider Valve will take a hands-off approach and allow almost everything on its software distribution platform, Steam. The “Active Shooter” game allows the player to act in the role of a school shooter, and keeps score based on the number of children and SWAT officers killed.
As a parent and a citizen, I am concerned about the negative influence technology run amok can have on our kids’ mental health. The real world is dangerous enough without allowing children to be exposed to increasingly realistic and violent video games. We cry over children murdered in what should be a safe zone . . . and then we sell children games which glorify those very horrors.
Peer pressure is intensified now that information that was once shared only on paper or within “contained” school gossip can quickly become global if shared on social media. There is so much pressure in today’s society when it comes to academic, athletic, and extracurricular expectations, which is increased due to the perception of perfection as displayed via social media, where many are posting about only the select positive moments of life.
Multiple reports show that increased screen time for children leads to depression and insomnia. According to a Centers for Disease Control report, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34. These are frightening statistics that aren’t getting enough attention.
There is even an increase in violence on TV commercials. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a study that analyzed over 300 commercial breaks during sporting events; it found 49 percent to have at least one commercial showing unsafe behavior or violence.
If those concerns weren’t enough, now we live in a society that enables video games that promote domestic terrorism training tools to be handed to kids, including mentally unstable ones. Do violent video games lead to a desensitized mental environment towards violence? Do violent video games make it easier for a student who feels angry, isolated, and bullied to take the next step and become a school shooter? I believe the answer to these questions is likely “Yes”.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that companies like Valve Corporation, which will allow ‘everything’ on the Steam gaming platform, should be a red flag for parents wanting to limit exposure to violence and inappropriate content. Let us: boycott irresponsible companies that promote violence involving children; minimize the violence we expose our children to; use social media monitoring apps; limit screen time; and restrict usage of electronics . We must continue to push our lawmakers to support and fund initiatives that address the mental health crisis in America. Make some changes this summer — even small ones add up. Try unplugging from electronics and tune in to the people around you who you love the most.
McGrath is a security professional who focuses on active shooter mitigation technology and services, and is an ALICE Certified Instructor. Email: carolyn.marie.mcgrath @gmail.com