Sophisticated solutions needed for society's violence

Extreme exposure to violence in the formative years distorts a child’s or teen’s view
By Dr. Nick Brossoit, Superintendent, Edmonds School District | Jan 17, 2013

Traveling East on I-90 and passing Ellensburg, we saw numerous windmills atop the hills as we made our way towards Vantage.

From one of our young boys came the uninformed, yet insightful question, “Do those big fans make the wind?”

The December 14, 2012 tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary broke our hearts. We grieve for the loss and the pain of the families.

As I listen to the debates that have followed those tragic events, I can’t help wonder to what extent political responses will be about the “windmills” believed to be the cause, instead of the violent “winds” that leads to such events.

There are great parents and young people growing up in our country today. Home is where we first learn to be civil and responsible; and it is reinforced in school.

With good core values, appropriate modeling, and the ability to distinguish right from wrong young people learn to value themselves and others – so, if or when one with this foundation views “violence" in media he/she does not necessarily act in a similar manner.

However, some children and teens grow up with inadequate or ineffective supervision; they are over indulged or exposed to or have readily available access to a multitude of media that includes graphic violence.

There are interactive video games in which they get to star as the “shooter.”

These have no real consequences, other than gaining or losing “points” in the game, or moving to higher levels of accomplishment depending on one’s “success”.

Extreme exposure to violence in the formative years distorts a child’s or teen’s view – violence is learned. When these young people have emotional challenges, they act out with what they have “learned” for how to deal with it.

If a young person has a foundation of seeing violence as an acceptable response and one adds troubled life experiences, social/emotional issues, and the availability of high powered weapons -- then that combination can result in an act of social violence that shatters the safety of life.

Educators, law enforcement, and caring people in communities across our country have intercepted, intervened, and helped to prevent perhaps hundreds of school incidents that would have caused the loss of life.

Truly, the good will and care of the loving and responsible people in our world are what keeps us all together in society.

Sincere thanks to all of you who are aware of and who are constructively involved in our collective safety every day in our schools and community.

So how do we really improve public safety? Just as the real nature of the problem is complex and multifaceted; effective solutions will have to be equally sophisticated.

Central in this is that we as parents, educators, elected officials, citizens, and taxpayers need to effectively protect and educate young minds and make available the mental and physical health supports that families and young people need to develop responsibly.

If we Americans are not comprehensive in our actions, we will address "windmills" and then wonder “why” -- each time a violent wind results in the unnecessary loss of life.


Comments (2)
Posted by: Matthew Richardson | Jan 17, 2013 15:50

Dr. Nick Brossoit,

It's to be expected that small children need help reconciling exposure to violence in media, but -very- few children entering into their formative years have any issues separating real life from fantasy.  Any child outside that norm is likely mentally ill and in the care of professionals.  I'm happy that this piece doesn't explicitly call for banning violent video games, movies, music, or books but it practically does.  Media has always been targeted by parents and regulators, but it's never been the problem.


Parents are too quick to pull the trigger on violent video games.  The real media-related problem in our society is how parents and regulators react to news of school shootings:


"Events like this, if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."

~Roger Ebert in wake of Columbine Shooting


Beatles fans refuse to name Lennon's shooter, but over-zealous parents watching their television sets, wanting immediate, heavy-handed action, unwittingly exacerbate school violence.  Government interests pile on, using the tragedy as a vehicle to take our civil rights away.  It's all very Orwellian.  Respectfully, blaming school shootings on video games is Tilting at Windmills.



Posted by: Nathaniel R Brown | Jan 17, 2013 19:48

I would agree that blaming the shootings on video games is vastly simplistic.  But we need to realize that there is NO single solution, and that an array of methods will, in time, make a difference.

Good parenting means quality time, and lots of it, with the kids, as well as an eye on what they watch and do. Do these things, and the "video problem" will be on its way to being solved.

The same with reasonable steps in gun control.  It's not the solution, but sane laws and their enforcement are another step.

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