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8-year-old shoots elderly caregiver after playing video game

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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A concept image with a child sitting in front of a tv with a violent image to help illustrate the effect of violent video games on children (Credit: Piumadaquila via Fotolia)

An eight-year-old boy killed his grandmother last weekend after playing the violent video game Grand Theft Auto IV.  Marie Smothers, 87, was shot in the back of the head as she watched television in her mobile home.  She was pronounced dead at the scene.  Authorities believe the shooting was intentional.

Police say that prior to the shooting, Smothers and her grandson “had a normal, loving relationship.”  Grand Theft Auto IV is rated “M” for mature audiences and is recommended for ages 17 and above.  A child psychologist said access to such a violent game could encourage aggressive behavior: “When you have a video game that is shooting at a human being, that is practicing shooting at a human being.”

A similar connection has been suggested with the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December.  The shooter, Adam Lanza, was reportedly obsessed with violent video games such as Call of Duty.

According to Common Sense Media, 90 percent of movies, 68 percent of video games, and 60 percent of TV shows present some depiction of violence.  Kids 8 and under watch an average of one hour and 40 minutes of TV or DVDs a day, while older kids watch an average of four hours daily.  Most kids start playing video games around age four.  One expert warns that “prolonged exposure to violence in media is a risk factor. And it’s kids who have multiple risk factors who are likeliest to behave aggressively.”

What should parents do?  Experts say to check the ratings of video games, rent before you buy, look for alternatives to violence, and enforce balance.  Watch for warning signs that your child only likes to play video games alone or only plays violent games.  And don’t allow video games in the bedroom—put them in the family or living room so you can monitor your child’s activity.

Above all, one expert urges us to “talk about your values regarding violent behavior.”  God already has.  His word tells us to be “not violent but gentle” (1 Timothy 3:3).  Among the “works of the flesh” are “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions” (Galatians 5:19-20).  How do we avoid them?  “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Your thoughts will determine your life.  Buddha was right: “We are what we think.  All that we are arises with our thoughts.  With our thoughts, we make the world.”  Marcus Aurelius, Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor, agreed: “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”

God commands: “If there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).  Here’s why: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, KJV).  Did your thoughts please God yesterday?  Will they today?

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