Kids and Violence

Kids and Violence - Parenting Like HannahAs I write this, the U.S. has just experienced the worst mass shooting in its history. After every mass shooting, it seems like everyone has an opinion as to whether gun control, mental health, protective screenings and law enforcement changes are necessary to stop these incidents in the future.

What happens in my mind is different. I wonder what happened to create a heart that could plan and execute such a horrific plan. A heart that held no value for human life. A heart and mind that thought violence was the answer to whatever they believed was the problem they were trying to solve.

I am sure for every mass shooter, there are multiple reasons why their heart became so horribly ungodly and evil. Obviously, they rejected God’s path for living life at some point in their journey. They may have experienced horrible pain in their life or been horribly spoiled. They may have mental health issues.

What I don’t hear anyone address is the very root of much violent behavior. Study after study has shown a direct correlation between this and increased violent and aggressive behavior even in young children. In fact, when I googled for studies on this topic and its connection to aggression and violence in children and adults (male and female) I was overwhelmed at the sheer volume and quality of studies and horrified by their results.

So what creates fertile ground for violence and aggression in the hearts and minds of people? Consuming violent television shows, movies and video games. Hollywood doesn’t want to hear this or address the fact that the very roots of this evil are the violent content they churn out on a daily basis. Why? Because it makes them a ton of money. As I personally heard one major Hollywood player admit “Hollywood follows the money. Period.”

I won’t bore you with the statistics of how much violent content your kids have probably watched by an early age. Or the numerous longitudinal studies that show viewing violent content has an immediate effect on your child’s aggression and violent behavior – increasingly the likelihood of them immediately whacking a sibling after viewing a tv show with violence (Ok, the studies didn’t mention the whacking the sibling part! I’m just putting their findings into the reality of our world as parents.). Or the studies that show even if your child stops watching violent content later, the damage has already been done – the increased tendency to be aggressive and violent continues into adulthood.

Please don’t read this and think to yourself, “Not my children. My children aren’t changed by the violent content they have seen on television or in movies and video games.”. It’s just not true. Your children are absolutely having their hearts and minds changed by any violent content they are exposed to for any amount of time. They are becoming more aggressive and violent than they would have been without that exposure.

The saddest part is that it will take a lot of hard work on their parts to undo the damage watching violent content created as they attempt to live a Christian life. They will have to work harder at controlling their temper. They will have to work harder at godly conflict resolution. They will have to work harder to lower the stress levels and negative health effects their internal aggression will cause.

Do you want to make your child’s Christian faith journey easier? Do you want to make it easier for them to obey God’s commands? Do you want to make it less likely they will become involved in some violent incident? A HUGE part of the answer is simple.

Don’t let them watch any television with ANY violence in it. Don’t go to movies that have ANY violence in them. Don’t let your child play video games that have ANY violence in them. ANY violence your child sees will have a negative impact on their hearts and minds and encourage them to leave the path of love and kindness, goodness and mercy on which God wanted them to travel. I don’t have a crystal ball to show you the difference in your child’s future if they watch violent content and if they don’t, but that’s what all of those studies have done for you. This is not one random study like the vaccine debate, but multiple, multiple studies conducted during the last forty or fifty years. The evidence is overwhelming.

If you want to take things a step farther and change the world, pressure Hollywood. Use your best lobbying efforts and scrub Hollywood clean of violence. Encourage churches to encourage their members to boycott ALL violent content. That’s how you can really change this violent trend.

Even if you can’t change the world, you can change your child’s world. It may not make you the most popular mom in the world (make sure you carefully explain to your kids why you are banning violent content). It will, however, make your kids less aggressive than they would have been had you continued to allow exposure to violent content. It will make their Christian journey easier than it would have been otherwise. It’s definitely worth that “mean mommy” badge!

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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