Newswise – On Monday, 16-year-old Jeffrey Weise, a high school studenton the Red Lake Chippewa Indian Reservation in northernMinnesota, shot and killed his grandparents, five fellowstudents, a teacher and a security guard, as well ashimself–and Dreamland guest Loren Coleman, author ofthe Copycat Effect predicted it.Like the Columbine killers, Weise frequented aNeo-Nazi internet website. For years, psychologists havebeen saying that exposure to violent media imagesdoes notlead to violent actions, but now they’re changing theirminds. According to the British medical journal The Lancet,violent imagery can increase aggressive behavior in kids.
Kevin Browne and Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis found thatfor passive viewing (television and film) and interactiveviewing (video and computer games) there is consistentevidence of an association between children watching mediaviolence and showing more aggressive behavior. Theeffect is especially significant for boys. So far, all theteenaged high school killers have been male.
Family and social factors also affect a child’s response toviolent imagery. One study found that the effects of filmviolence were greater in young people who had grown up inviolent families. However, research has found that theaffect persists even when socioeconomic status,intelligence, and parenting are taken into account,suggesting that some of the influence is independent ofother factors. You can raise your kids right?Jeffrey Weise’sfather was a tribal policeman?but violent media can undo allyour good intentions.
When Laura Bush visited an inner city Baltimore classroomrecently, she saw first-grade students playing the “GoodBehavior Game.” This game dramatically reduces violentbehavior, especially among boys who have been identified asbeing “highly aggressive.”
The “Good Behavior Game” isn’t a video game, it’s aclassroom situation in which students motivate theirteammates to follow class rules and are rewarded withincentives like extra time at recess or praise from theirteacher. Rather than separating children who are disruptivefrom the rest of the class, the teacher draws on thepowerful influence of a student’s peers to collectivelyreinforce positive behavior.
On last weekend’s Dreamland, Colemanpredicted that another school shooting wouldhappen soon. On Friday, he wrote in his blog, “Everyindication is that the media is entering its first post-9/11’shooting rampage’ feeding frenzy, and as March nears itsend, and into April, ‘school shootings’ could be next….Nowwe must hold our breath to see if this event will triggermore school shootings, in the three-day, seven-day, andone-month copycat media cycle.” Just a few days later, ithappened.
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Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk
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