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I was inspired to look at modern day childhoods after reading two books for task 1 where the writers both reflected on their youth. Nowadays, our lives seem to revolve around new technology and different types of media. This led me to think of the impact that video games and films can have on today’s young people. I have written a persuasive speech highlighting to parents the negative impacts that can be caused by overexposure to violent video games and film. I have included theories that agree with my view and have used case studies of violence caused by video games and films to strengthen the message I am trying to put forward and show the reality of my concerns. To keep my audience engaged I used a lot of direct address. I also used chiasmus, anthypophora and rhetorical questions to provoke thought in my audience. The use of tripling, cacophony and plosives give my words emphasis. Today, I want to tell you a story, not a pleasant story but a true story.
April 20, 1999, started as a normal school day in Columbus High School. At 11. 19 am the two senior boys –Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – started randomly and fatally shooting other students. In addition to the shootings, the complex and highly planned attack involved a fire bomb to divert firefighters, propane tank bombs set to explode in the cafeteria, and an additional 99 explosive devices and car bombs. 12 students and 1 teacher sadly lost their lives and a further 24 were injured. The pair subsequently committed suicide. Had the bombs in the cafeteria gone off, all 488 student in the area would, for certain, have been killed. But why? What would induce two people in the earliest stages of their lives to act in this way? And how did they know what to do? The shocking answers to these questions lie in two of the main causes of the Columbian High School Massacre – video games and films.
In 1972, theorist Stan Cohen came up with the idea that press can cause moral panic in people. The theory of moral panic has often been used more recently to show how films, magazines, video games, social media and online technologies can be blamed for problems in society. The main point of the theory suggests the negative impacts that can affect society, especially vulnerable members, for example, children and teenagers. Moral panic can cause public alarm when something that is published in the media that threatens moral social standards. However, this exposure to an issue can cause social changes. In the case of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, their exposure to murder in both video games and films, provided inspiration for the attacks. Mainly, they took inspiration from a film called Natural Born Killers which meant that they were not shocked at their plans for mass murder. Now, I would like to imagine that most of you can think of a time in your youth when there was someone you looked up to, someone you tried to be like, even copied what they did. Well, in a similar way, the hypodermic model suggests, ‘children and teenagers are vulnerable to media content because they are still in the early stages of socialisation and therefore very impressionable’.
Consequentially our youngsters are likely to imitate or “copycat” what they see. This is what happened in the case of the Columbian High School Massacre, as both Harris and Klebold were fans of video games such as Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem, and Quake. These games gave the boys ideas which they later imitated to maim, murder and massacre others. From what I’ve been saying, you may have pictured hardened older boys sitting in front of their screen 24/7, e. g. at the age of high school, but that is not the case. James Patrick Bulger was only 2 years only when he was savagely beaten to death by two boys. Both boys where badly affected after watching a horror movie called Childs Play. The murderers were only 10 years old. In today’s world anyone can see just how hard it is too keep young people away from violent games and film. With all the advertising and peer pressure around, it is not surprising that most people succumb to watching or playing violent scenes. Looking at all of you right now I can see the thought on your faces – surely every once in a while won’t do any harm, right? No. You’re wrong. Totally wrong.
The cultivation theory – as suggested by Gerber and Gross – said that ‘over time, repetition of viewing violent acts allows certain ideas and values to become normalised’, and therefore people may ‘become immune towards negative and/or violent representation’. This is known as desensitisation. Desensitisation diminishes people’s emotional responses which was seen in the Columbus High School Massacre. Both Harris and Klebold were fans of the movie Natural Born Killers so they used the acronym NBK as a code name for the massacre. A year before their attack Harris wrote in his journal: “When I go NBK and people say things like “Oh, it was so tragic, ” or “oh he is crazy!” or “It was so bloody”, just because your mommy and daddy told you blood and violence is bad”. As for Klebond, he wrote: “I’m stuck in humanity. Maybe going NBK w. Eric is the way to break free”. The desensitisation both boys explains why they were able to murder without any hesitation or any feeling of guilt. I need you to think about this. What we watch affects who we are. What we are does not affect what we watch. So I want to know, why would you allow your child to do something that makes violence ok to them? In simple terms, letting your children watch violent films and play violent video games is a way of brainwashing them that violence is acceptable. It’s unnecessary, irresponsible and dangerous. But how can we stop this happening? Don’t take me as thoughtless – I fully understand that in today’s world, films and video games are never far away. However it is possible to keep away from the video games and films that will have negative effects on us and our children.
As parents, I ask you to keep a vigilant eye over what you are letting you children look at. Here are a few ways you can prevent letting your children see something that would negatively affect them: firstly check the age rating that is on every film and videogame sold in the UK as this will show you what is suitable for your children and what is not. Secondly, look up reviews about a particular game or film on the internet and thirdly check PEGI content description labels on games which will warn you of any violence, bad language, discrimination, drugs, fear or gambling in the game.
You can also be satisfied that you are not the only people who are worried – as a result of the Columbian High School Massacre, authorities have also banned some games which shows they are taking steps to protect the young people of today. Today my story was not a pleasant story but a true story, not to upset you but to highlight the need of vigilance over what we are allowing the young people of today to do.
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