Real Simple asked me to participate in a project they have in which they’re asking readers and others for “One Simple Change” that ordinary people could do that would make things like the Newtown shooting less likely. In my short essay, I said:
Every time something like Sandy Hook happens, we hear people talking about the role the entertainment media – TV, Internet, movies, video games, music – plays in shaping the worldview of American children. These concerns are realistic, and entirely justified. More parental oversight and control of kids’ media habits are both urgent and necessary.
But here’s something nobody ever talks about: the parallel need for us parents to critically examine our own media habits.
I went on to say that while it’s true that adults shouldn’t have to restrict our TV and movie-watching to what’s appropriate for a fifth grader, it’s also true that the more we fill our minds with violent and degrading sounds and images, the less sensitive we become to the increasingly coarse quality of public life. More:
We parents are the primary educators of our children, and, with the community, responsible for the culture that shapes their minds and hearts. If our careless media consumption causes us to lose sight of the good, the true, and the beautiful, can we trust ourselves to teach our children well? Can our kids rely on us to be as sensitive as we ought to the stewardship of our communities and their character-forming institutions?
Should we pay more critical attention to our kids’ media habits, especially regarding violence? Absolutely. But children aren’t the only ones in the home who need that discipline.
UPDATE: Just to be clear, I don’t think violent movies, video games, etc., “caused” Sandy Hook. There is no one cause for things like this. My general point is that we don’t have or exercise enough of a taboo on graphic, sadistic violence. We find things entertaining that ought to make normal people disgusted. And that effects the media ecology and social psychology.