The controversy over the effect that violence depicted on television and in video games has on impressionable young minds resurfaced this week after two tragic incidents involving copycat behaviour. The first concerned a young schoolgirl who hanged herself from a tree after repeatedly viewing a depiction of this act on TV. She is alive but comatose. The other involved a 14-year-old boy with a history of autism who allegedly stabbed his mother to death after she reproached him over his severe addiction to video games. He also stabbed his sister when she intervened.
The eight-year-old girl is not the first to severely injure herself while acting out a TV-induced fantasy. Nor is the action of the teenager, who was apparently obsessed by Point Blank, a violent online first-person shooter, in any way unique. Four years ago, gamer Polwat Chino, then 19, stabbed a taxi driver to death in Bang Phlad district of Bangkok while supposedly re-enacting a scene from Grand Theft Auto. The video game was pulled from the shelves as a result.
Without wishing to detract from the horror of these cases, we must remember that there are tens of thousands of well-adjusted youngsters out there who have no difficulty in differentiating between fantasy and reality on TV, in social media or while at the cinema. Most pre-teenagers and adolescents have very acute senses of right and wrong and see policemen carrying guns daily and understand why. With proper parental guidance only an unstable personality should be at risk and in need of having his or her behaviour tightly controlled.
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