School Shootings Reignite Debate over Violent Video Games

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Source: Jennifer Emert, “There Have Been 18 School Shootings in the US in 2018,” wlos.com, Feb. 14, 2018

In the aftermath of the May 18, 2018, school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, the debate over whether or not violent video games contribute to youth violence has reignited.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick singled out violent video games as one of the causes for the school shooting in Santa Fe that killed 10 people. During an interview on ABC’s This Week, he argued that violent video games have created youth who are “desensitized to violence,” stating that “we have devalued life, whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the breakup of families, through violent movies and particularly violent video games… Psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that students… have lost empathy for their victims by watching hours and hours of violent video games.”

Similar public comments were made by elected officials after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said, “Guns are not the problem… There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it… They have desensitized people to the value of human life.” President Trump also placed blame on violent video games stating, “I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”

However, many psychologists do not agree. According to Chris Ferguson, Professor of Psychology at Stetson University, “analyses of school shooters have found that they appear to consume unusually low levels of violent media for males their age… Video games and movies are held up in an attempt to distract people from talking about gun control… Here’s the truth: Video games don’t play any role, even a small one, in creating mass shootings like the one that happened at Santa Fe High School.”

A US Secret Service and US Department of Education study of targeted school violence between 1974 and 2000 showed only 12% of the 41 attackers studied had any interest in violent video games.

As many as 97% of US kids age 12-17 play video games, and more than half of the 50 top-selling video games contain violence.


Sources:

American Psychological Association (APA), “APA Review Confirms Link Between Playing Violent Video Games and Aggression,” apa.org, Aug. 13, 2015

Jamie Ducharme, “Trump Blames Video Games for School Shootings. Here’s What Science Says,” time.com, Mar. 12, 2018

Chris Ferguson, “No, Dan Patrick, Violent Video Games Don’t Cause Violence,” houstonchronicle.com, May 22, 2018

Ethan Gach, “Kentucky Governor Blames Violent Video Games for Shootings,” kotaku.com, Feb. 16, 2018

Meghan Keneally, “Breaking Down the Debate over Violent Video Games and School Shootings,” abcnews.go.com, May 22, 2018

Edgar Walters, “Following Santa Fe School Shooting, Dan Patrick Says Texas Should Cut Incentive Funding for ‘Violent’ Films and Video Games,” texastribune.org, May 23, 2018

United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education, “The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States,” secretservice.gov, July 2004