It has been thrown out there many times that the reason we have so much violence in schools is due to all the violence in video games and television. My 19 year old son and I were just talking about this the other night. With movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and 300, with video games like Call of Duty, it would seem logical to make a connection between school violence and the media. Some people claim that video games desensitize children to real death and destruction. I asked my son why he felt that he had not been negatively affected by such things. He told me that he understood the difference between reality and fantasy. Furthermore, he mentioned an article that he read that suggested that increased stress levels among teens was to blame. I decided to research it for myself.
According to my findings, studies such as the one conducted by Seattle Rehabilitation Center found that stress levels among teens are actually worse than they were during the Great Depression. The study, conducted in 2007, compared contemporary students to those who lived through the Depression in 1937. The study suggests that a massive increase in external pressures are causing an upsurge in mental health issues— particularly anxiety. These external issues are listed as: wealth, appearance, and status (basically measuring up in all aspects of life).
Another disturbing find, by a study conducted by Dr. Jean Twenge, paired with psychological clinicians, was an increase in psychopathic deviation, which usually presents as a personality disorder in which one exhibits a reduction in remorse and empathy, or in severe cases and be a precursor for violence or even murder. In the ‘30s, this behavior was only found in 5 percent of students tested, whereas in a recent study, it had increased to 21 percent. Dr. Jean Twenge, author of the 2008 book, “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before” said, “Now this study isn’t suggesting that all those testing high in that category are future serial killers, so don’t panic. However, it did show that they had a milder reaction, such as, problems with authority, and a sense that the rules somehow did not apply to them.”
Another concerning trend was unearthed by a 2008 study by UCLA. 77 percent of freshmen surveyed indicated that being well-off was either “necessary” or “very important.” When you really stop to think about these studies, it makes total sense. Bullying is on the rise, suicide rates have gone up, and all in the name of achieving status. The source of this pressure cannot be narrowed to just one thing. It is the video games, magazines, TV shows, and unfortunately, even some parents have been known to over pressure their teens to achieve.
What can we do about these trends to improve our next generation’s chances of success? We need to redefine “success” to mean not that which one can obtain, nor what one looks like, but rather what one is known for contributing to society. We can rebuild healthy confidence in children to replace the high-pressure arrogant version. We can praise our young people for their contributions, teach them that beauty shines through the eyes that belong to the young man or woman with a kind heart. Teach them that it is not about what one can acquire in a lifetime, but about the legacy one can leave behind them when they are gone. Wealth is not a figure or the account of what you own, true wealth is priceless. True wealth is knowing love, belonging to a family, being appreciated by a friend, and walking through a storm with someone beside you who believes in you. We can keep tossing the blame around, or we can reach out and make a difference in the lives of our young people. Nobody is too small or too young to change the world. Remember: it only takes one domino to knock down miles of dominos!