Editorial: Condemning game for tragedy is missing bigger issue

Sep. 03, 2013 @ 11:28 PM

A week ago an 8-year-old boy in East Feliciana Parish, La., shot and killed his 87-year-old grandmother and caregiver.

In addition to the newsworthiness of the event alone, the killing garnered more headlines for an alleged factor in the case — violent video games.

The motive for the shooting wasn’t clear, but even the responding law enforcement officials were quick to blame Grand Theft Auto IV, a video game found in the home.

“Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time,” the local sheriff’s department said, “investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the PlayStation 3  – Grand Theft Auto IV, a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred.”

That’s quite an implication from the investigating office.

Every few years violent video games become the crisis of the day when a child commits an atrocious crime.

But the simple fact of the matter is this: It’s never been proven that exposure to a video game causes violence.

Although not recommended — even by the game’s manufacturers — many, many children play mature-rated games and never act out violently towards another person.

Still others will cite that the gun used in the crime is the issue. After all, it was the gun that was used to commit the crime.

Although there’s no question the gun, which belonged to the grandmother, should have been better secured to keep it from the child’s hands, again that’s not the core issue.

It’s impossible to know all the factors of the case in question, but in most cases when video games, or guns, are cited as a cause, there are more direct facets in play.

The primary cause in most situations like this one center on the child’s environment and the parenting they’ve received.

Teaching children right from wrong and that there are consequences to their actions are two of the most critical lessons any parents can pass on to their offspring.

Sure, there are crimes committed when a child perpetrator was likely too young to realize the consequences of their actions — Louisiana says anyone under 10 can’t be held liable for a crime — but an 8-year-old should be mentally developed enough to grasp the fundamental problems with shooting someone in the back of the head.

Sometimes in a tragedy it’s easy to cast blame on the simplest targets. Blaming the video game, or even the gun, for the death is an easy response. Looking for the deeper issue isn’t.