The media, whether it be in the form of an online community, video games, movies, and songs, arguably has a great influence on the life of individuals. The extent of this influence is one that is worth exploring. For centuries, people have been linking violent crimes, such as murder and suicide, to the influence of violent media, noting that one leads to another. However, while these forms of platform can be the trigger to harm, it is not the gun that should be feared.
Earlier this year, an odd social media challenge was trending among middle school students of the United States (U.S.). Called the Eraser Challenge, children are to rub their skin with an eraser while “do[ing] or say[ing] something.” This has been circulating the country for about a year, with doctors claiming that such injuries can be life-threatening due to skin burn from the frictional heat. Communities that promote self-harm, however, is not new. In fact, there has been a recent controversy over an online game that prompted a plethora of suicide cases among adolescents.
▲ The Blue Whale Challenge. PROVIDED BY NETWORK18CREATIVE.
Blue Whale Challenge is an online game that contains a list of assignments for players to follow for the period of 50 days. What is peculiar about this game is that it contains tasks that perpetrate self-harm, with the final one obliging the players to take a selfie while attempting to commit suicide. As inconsequential as this game may sound, it has amassed a multitude of players all over the world, including countries such as Russia, the U.S., Argentina, China, and even India. In Russia, 2015, 17-year-old Rina Palenkova shared a photo of herself jumping into a running train. In the following year, about 130 similar cases of young adults committing similar dares have been reported in Russia alone.
What Is Seen Is Easily Blamed
As seen in these cases, a conclusion that one can easily formulate is that external factors could lead to harmful consequences, often costing the lives of many people. This idea is, in fact, supported by research. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.” Furthermore, the American Psychological Association (APA) also added that there is a correlation between violent media and “Increases in aggressive behavior and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy, and moral engagement.”
It is no wonder that when the Sandy Hook Elementary Massacre occurred in Connecticut, the U.S., in 2012, people were quick to point out that the cause of Adam Lanza’s murderous behavior was caused by his obsession with violent video games. However, as easy as it is to pin the blame on these factors, ignoring the fundamental cause of self- or society-destructive behaviors will solve nothing. In the case of Lanza, if violent video games caused him to shoot 77 individuals to death, why is it more common to see law-abiding and rational video game fanatics who do not harm other people?
Behind the Scenes: Personal Issues
Understanding what causes individuals to engage in destructive behaviors is especially essential as this dilemma also circulates around South Korea. Recently, a-17-year-old high school dropout has been charged with the murder of an eight-year-old child. Documented screenshots display the conversation between this girl and another 19-year-old girl who allegedly instructed the former to give her a “corpse as a present” as she was soon going to commit suicide. The two girls had met through an online roleplaying community composed of individuals who share a common interest of using gory language to glorify corpses.
▲ The mysterious murder of Incheon. PROVIDED BY NEWS1.
While it is easy to place the blame on the online community that allowed these two girls to meet and orchestrate the “perfect murder” as they call it, the issue is much more complex. An expert in psychology commented, “The core cause of these cases may include the online activities that the subjects engaged in, but it extends to personal issues that shape how one thinks and acts.” He referred to the environment in which a person grows up, such as family circumstances or social experience in school. The greater cause behind the destructive cases can be traced back to the direct surroundings that shaped their mindsets, not the existence of games or media.
Is there a Solution?
“It would be good if we can predict the negative behavior of individuals to prevent any crime; however, that is very difficult,” stated the expert. However, as personal factors are the ultimate cause of crimes shaped by the society, the solution cannot solely come from a single party. “Yet, we cannot control the way parents or teachers treat young children. What we can control is for social institutions to actively seek what is right for children being raised,” said the expert. For instance, schools can make more effective efforts to keep students from dropping out and to support students with programs that help them attain a satisfactory learning environment.
Crimes, as peculiar as the ones mentioned in the article, are unusual, yet are pressing. Its causes derive from sources other than avocations. Therefore, everyone, especially the institutions directly related to the daily lives of people, must be involved in creating a healthy place for all to grow into law-abiding and rational individuals. Denying the root cause of what prompts one to become a harm to society, and blaming a minor third party factor such as online games or communities, will only perpetuate a vicious cycle of mysterious and irrational crimes.