The tragedy in Newtown, like so many before, has deeply saddened me. When these horrible acts occur, I cannot help but become completely invested in it. I want to learn the names of every victim. I want to know every single detail to what happened. I investigate every possible place to learn about the events leading to these terrible atrocities. I ponder how this person could become so deranged and why these tiny children were chosen.
The questions never end and are never really answered in my mind. Though I agree with most who are stating that naming the suspect and talking about them in the media is wrong, I cannot help being morbidly curious about them and how they have become the person they are. I feel that it is important for people to be vigilant in learning what makes these people tick and why. I am always incredibly fearful when I realize that often, most people who are close to them never really think they are capable of what they did. People on the news talk about how well the person dressed, how they were nice and well behaved, and stories report that the person was close to their family and I cannot help wonder how would they know? How would I know? How would you know?
If you research indicators for violence in people, you will often find traits that are common to more than just murderers. Depression. Family problems. History of different kinds of abuse, whether it be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological.
But, don't we all, at one time or another, feel these things? I have been depressed, had problems in my family, and have been abused but I would never, never, never even think to hurt anyone other than in self defense. I certainly could never even draw a connection between a weapon and a school full of beautiful, defenseless, innocent children. So, if it's not something we can see in their personality, what can we do to keep ourselves and those we love safe?
Some say we should have stronger gun laws and regulations and there is no doubt that will be a huge topic of discussion in the coming months, as well as mental health. Others say it is the violence we see on screens everywhere today- the news, reality TV, epic action/adventure movies, Youtube, and video games- and this always makes me cringe. I have never been a believer that a young boy who plays video games is more likely than anyone else to go out and shoot someone. I have never supported the statements that kids can't differentiate between right and wrong, real horrors and onscreen violence.
But, my mind began to wonder when I read a CNN blog about preventing school shooting violence. Blogger Autumn Boyer wrote:
Generation Y and the upcoming Google generation was/is born addicted to technology and "screens" … and are set up to fail...Gen Y & the upcoming Google generation that "it's all about you" (ie: Ipods, MYspace, YOUtube, Wii, etc), meanwhile, our kids are not developing critical communication and coping skills, and are stunted socially, psychosocially &/or emotionally due to being "detached" and "disconnected" from each other by living life through the virtual world (rather than the real world) of screens...our kids learn to communicate via texting & social media vs. face-to-face communication; and studies are now showing that due to these deficits kids are now exhibiting developmental delays in basic problem-solving skills, empathy, and the ability to read emotions on the faces of other people....
For the first time ever, this idea resonates with me. Although I still believe that people are ultimately responsible for the choices they make, could some people who use a lot of this self focused media become so enthralled in another self focused world that the normal right from wrong knowledge isn't really forgotten but rather just completely and utterly ignored?
We have pages dedicated to us and access to a never ending supply of “Friends,” where we can post whatever is on our mind to an audience who responds immediately. In video games, we can create the characters we want to be, not the people we actually are. I often think about how easy it is for my kids to watch any movie they want with the click of a button when I would sit for hours as a child, flipping through the 5 or 6 channels of daytime soap operas, bowling tournaments, and the Price is Right. Going to the video store was fun for me and now, my kids just go to Netflix anytime they want. Several times, I have noticed my kids texting friends who are sitting right next to them, or after picking someone up for a sleepover, watched them sit in the backseat together, playing different games on their Gameboys, rather than talking to each other. I have become frustrated with my daughter when she is upset that she can't text, yet can call someone. But, I have also sat in my car and texted my arrival rather than coming inside. And, for me, the best thing about Facebook is how I can stay in touch without actually visiting ( sorry, friends).
What are we doing? Are we creating this world where real people don't really matter because our world is about us?
As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children empathy and love for others. It is time we start focusing on how important those around us are and reach out to people in real life. While I still believe that most kids who play video games or like to shoot guns, have active Facebook and Youtube accounts, or love horror movies are not likely to go out and commit a terrible act like the school shooting in CT, I do think we should limit these activities to ensure our children- and us- grow up in the real world. Experiencing different places and people helps us understand how the real world is both very big and very little, and the importance of all life in it, not just ours.
And know that I don't think this is enough. With so many challenging mental disorders out there, we can never really be at ease that it won't happen to us and in our schools so we must be vigilant and watchful.