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In the last section, we discussed the first five of nine explanations of school shootings and how these theories hold up under professional scrutiny. These first five explanations of school shootings are mental illness, "he just snapped," family problems, bullying, and peer support.
In this section, we will discuss the second four of nine explanations for school shootings. These second five explanations are the culture of violence, gun availability, violent media, and the copycat effect.
Explanations Continued (#6-#10)
Certainly, the availability of guns is causally related to school shootings, but it is not clear that increasing gun availability actual accounts for the recent high numbers of school shooting incidents. Hunting communities, for example, have always had guns at the ready, but school shootings have experienced an increased rate relatively recently.
♦ Explanation # 7 - Exposure to Violent Media
In general, there is evidence that exposure to media violence may be associated with increased antisocial behavior and the tendency to identify violence as the best solution to problems. This of course raises confidentiality boundary issues. In a session, if your OCD client is obsessing about the violence in his or her video game, at what point do you feel this behavior may generalize into a shooting incident? Only your knowledge of the student’s normal mode of behavior, normal level of intensity, and doing or saying things out of character would be your guide.
♦ Explanation # 8 - The Copycat Effect
As you know, recent research indicates that media coverage affects the forms and methods of crimes, rather than the amount. However, this may not be the case for youths who are already suicidal. There is some evidence, although somewhat controversial, that youth suicides spike after highly publicized suicides, especially those of celebrities. However, would you agree that it seems inconceivable that an otherwise healthy and happy adolescent would shoot at their school, simply because they saw media coverage of a previous event? Rather, media coverage of these events may serve as modeled behavior for a solution to a problem experienced by already troubled youths.
♦ Explanation # 9 - Changing Communities
In several of the cases, the communities in which the shootings occurred boast high levels of community connectedness and solidarity. Teachers know the parents of their students well from neighborhood, family, church, or other connections. In these cases, it may be the very strengths of these connections, not an increasing weakness that contributed to the problems experienced by the shooters. Dense, all encompassing, interconnected networks of friends and family can make the lives of "misfits" unbearable, and in addition, may actually stifle the flow of information about potential warning signs. Would you agree?
As we have seen in this section and the last, simple explanations cannot explain why some children become shooters while others do not, nor are there any simple guidelines for pinpointing individuals who will become violent. Violent media is certainly part of the picture, for example, but millions of children play violent computer games, yet never become violent themselves.
Allan, age 46, came to see me because he was concerned about his son, Greg, age 16, playing violent online video games. Allan stated, "One of these games he plays is so realistic that it frightens me. So I told Greg flat out I wouldn’t stand to have my son bringing those disgusting games into my house. We got into this huge shouting match! I said some things I wasn’t proud of… How do I get through to Greg? I worry those video games will make him think that kind of violence is normal!"
I stated, "It sounds like you have a good handle on this technique. Now you might try putting all three parts together." Allan stated, "So I could say, ‘Greg, when you play violent video games, I feel worried, because I have seen research that indicates that exposure to violent media is associated with a tendency to identify violence as the best solution to problems'."
I stated, "That would be a good place to start. By saying this calmly and honestly, you invite Greg to have a discussion with you, and you make it clear why you want the behavior changed. Additionally, you give Greg a valuable model for requesting a change in behavior, and you make it easier for yourself to avoid saying things you might regret later."
Think of your Allan. Would reviewing the Three-Part Message technique you are currently using be useful to him or her?
In this section, we have discussed the second four of nine explanations for school shootings. These second five explanations are gun availability, violent media, and the copycat effect.
In the next section, we will discuss four aspects of how structural secrecy may decrease the likelihood that school shooters will be identified early. These four aspects are privacy, the clean slate, institutional memory loss, and counselor-student confidentiality.
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