Are Video Games feeding the School to Prison Pipeline?

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VideoGames vs ProSocial Toys

Which life do you want for your Children?


Our nation is facing a crisis in school violence.  The number of incidents that occur in schools and universities has become so great that it rarely makes breaking news.  Our society is becoming normalized to the idea that shootings will happen.  These shootings not only are becoming more prevalent in the courts, especially in Colorado, but are also polarizing the everyday cases as well as the way the public views the integrity of our court system.

Though there is a great debate going on in our country about the reasons that these shootings are occurring, ranging from the appropriate amount of gun control, school environments, home environments, mental health, and a plethora of other issues, this article will focus on the home environment.

In particular, there seems to be a long term effect that is occurring in our children as they receive more and more exposure to violent video games.  According to the research, it has been found that children who play violent video games have lower empathy to violence, as found by Dr. Jeanne Brockmyer, a clinical child psychologist and professor at the University of Toledo.

According to her research, a typical person is horrified by the things that he or she initially sees on violent video games, but as the person becomes more exposed to these games, the rape, police shootings, massive shootings, gang violence, and other aspects of these games tend to become the norm and the person is no longer bothered by these things.  Here is a link to an article about her research on video game violence and the effects it has on children.

This is deeply troubling because one of the greatest deterrents for people considering whether to commit a crime is their own moral compass.  When people lose their own sense of right and wrong, it becomes more likely that they will begin shooting other people, committing rape, burglaries, robberies, and other sorts of violence that is depicted in video games.

Additionally, the video games add a sense of achievement in committing these offenses.  Rather than facing the reality of the crimes and the extremely harsh penalties that the person will likely face by committing one of these offenses, the game may bias the person to over-emphasize the perceived benefits of committing the crime and de-emphasize the likelihood of being caught.

In today’s society, we need to emphasize pro-social activities and games.  When shopping for your child, you should consider whether the toy:

  • Encourages children to build and create rather than to destroy;
  • Stimulates creativity and imaginative play;
  • Promotes cooperation and problem-solving among children;
  • Encourages children to create their own scenarios, rather than re-enact television, movie or video game plots;
  • Are free of racist and sexist stereotypes;
  • Promotes learning of new skills and help children develop their own talents;
  • Are open-ended with no predetermined ‘right’ or ‘wrong’;
  • Challenges children to think for themselves and to use their imagination.

Though they are not as well advertised or publicized, there are a number of great toys and activities that promote pro-social activities.  Some of the best toys that I have seen are on the Organic and Educational Toys website,  In particular, there is an educational section that contains some great educational toys that are perfect for a child’s growing mind.

I find it doubtful that a person who grows up learning to create things with Tegu wooden blocks or how to solve challenges with a mind game from FatBrain Toys or making music with a musical instrument designed for children or using her imagination with an Organic Stuffed Animal from Pebble or a wooden toy from Pure Play Kids is likely to end up facing a serious crime for lack of empathy, as appears to be the case from violent video games.

Now some people look at a $20-$30 toy that has the label “Organic” and think, “That is really expensive!” But, when judging the price, hopefully the parents will also consider the $500 price tag on a new video game system and the equally exorbitant price per game. Hopefully the parent will consider the potential damage that they could be doing to their child before they spend $500 on a potentially life destructing device. When examined in this context, there is no comparison between the price of toys that are good for your child and the price of video games.

It might be argued that children who spend hours playing video games are receiving different parenting than a child who plays pretend with organic dolls. This argument is a valid one. But which parent would you rather be: the parent who risks your child becoming normalized to police shootings or the parent who tries to normalize working together and following a strong moral compass? Why take the risk?

The information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as the creation of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney.

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Nathaniel has worked in criminal law on both sides of the aisle spending time working for the prosecution as well as the defense. Most recently Nathaniel has represented individuals in violent felonies and drug cases. Prior to this work, Nathaniel handled DWIs, Domestic Violence Cases, Property Crimes, and White Collar Crimes. On the prosecutorial side, Nathaniel has most notably worked in Bosnia helping to prosecute individuals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Bosnian War from 1993-1995. In particular, Nathaniel helped in the prosecution of military leaders who arranged for the organized murders and rapes of innocent civilians in various towns in Bosnia. Nathaniel is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Northwestern University, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Google Profile: Nathaniel Baca