Are Kids Desensitized to Violence
I made a decision before even having children that my kids would not grow up exposed to violence. They would not play with toy guys and knives, they would not watch the news, and they would not think that getting hurt was funny.
This was a radical departure from the way that I grew up. Raised by a stay-at-home dad and at home with my big brother, I was fed a steady diet of the Three Stooges and cartoons filled with slapstick comedy. A frying pan to the head? No problem. Falling down a flight of stairs? Hilarious. But beyond that we also watched bloody "professional wrestling" often enough that I still remember using red markers to draw the blood on to our wrestling figures before throwing them off the top of the dresser in my brother's bedroom. I also remember watching movies like Die Hard when I was about the age my daughter is now. My daughter, by the way, is not even allowed to know such movies exist. She's still being fed a steady diet of rainbows and unicorns.
So why the change? Although I've been known to shove people and say, "SHUT UP!" in a very Elaine from Seinfeld way, none of the people I've shoved have ever been standing at the top of a flight of steps, and I wouldn't consider myself to be a violent person. I do, however, think that seeing violence became normal to me. The news was sad, but not shocking. Movies with blood bothered me, but the violence went unnoticed. Then a high school friend was shot and killed by another high school friend. Suddenly the guns, the bravado, the farce all became real. In a moment of anger a human life was taken. There would be no rematch the following Sunday. No one would stand up and shake it off, go on to film another episode.
So here I am living in a house where "squirt guns" are now called water soakers and television viewing is heavily monitored. My kids do not watch the news without me, and when we do watch the news it is usually because I know a kid friendly story is about to start. They don't watch violent movies, and even their exposure to slapstick has been limited. The idea isn't to lie to them about the world. It's to make sure that they understand that violence is shocking. That one human being hurting another is not comedy. Kids are only kids as long as we allow them to be, and then they've got a life time of dealing with reality. To me, it has been well worth it to shelter them now, and I wouldn't have it any other way.