After Sandy Hook: Why I Don't Let My Kids Play Violent Video Games

Speculation about the motives of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza have parents wondering about the influence of violent video games

When something horrible happens, we struggle to put a "why" to it. And, sadly, for months many parents have been forced to ponder why Adam Lanza decided to walk into an elementary school and viciously take so many innocent lives in Newtown, Conn.

News outlets are now reporting that the shooter, who was just 20, may have been trying to top the murder count committed by Anders Breivik, the Norwegian gunman who killed 77 people -- many teens -- at a summer camp and during a bombing in 2011. According to NBC News, that motive is 'mere speculation' at this point, but CBS News adds that Lanza may have also been "acting out the fantasies of a video game." Law enforcement officials tell CBS they found a "trove" of video games in a private basement room with blacked-out windows in which Lanza spent hours alone playing shooting games.

Now, I'm not one who believes heavy metal music causes otherwise innocent children to attack their parents. And I don't think playing a first-person shooter video game is the root of evil, either. But are my children allowed to spend hours in the basement going on violent, graphic video game rampages? Absolutely not. And it's time all parents take a stand against that sort of behavior.

Look, there may not be a direct link between video games and gun violence. A study published last year in the Journal of Psychiatric Research concluded that "depression, antisocial personality traits, exposure to family violence and peer influences were the best predictors of aggression-related outcomes," the Washington Post reports. But there also is plenty of research to support the opposite view.  of Ohio State University Professor Brad Bushman that notes that while video games alone may not be the ultimate reason behind gun violence "it shouldn't be dismissed as a trivial cause either," the Post adds.

Bushman's research found playing violent games -- think Call of Duty 4 or Condemned 2 -- over longer time frames can lead to aggressive behavior, according to HealthDay. "Playing video games could be compared to smoking cigarettes," he told the news service. "A single cigarette won't cause lung cancer, but smoking over weeks or months or years greatly increases the risk. In the same way, repeated exposure to violent video games may have a cumulative effect on aggression."

The American Psychological Association takes the stance that more research is needed, but notes: "Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior." The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees: "Exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games, represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents," the group states. "Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed." And President Obama's new gun control plan includes funding research to examine the role that media images and violent video games may play in gun violence.

With so many entertainment options out there, why would I choose to let my kids lock themselves in a dark room so they could virtually kill as many people/aliens/God knows what else as possible? Do my kids play video games? Yes. Do they beg to download game apps? Yes. Do they continually ask to listen to Rick Astley thanks to Just Dance 4? As much as it pains me, yes. Do they get to play games that encourage violence, even just aimed at the screen? No, no, no. I'm a mom against gun violence. And, believe me, there's no video game that will ever change my stance on that.

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