So many words, so little time....

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Nation's Murder Rate hits 40 year low...

Here's the FBI Report that they're using to base a lot of their info on (it's a PDF):

I don't think we have enough info to make any sort of cause-and-effect judgements, but for all those people who are going on about how awful and violent teens are and acting all scared of them, the numbers just don't show it. People are running scared from kids, and it's not because of anything the kids are doing.

There are people in this world (Jack Thompson, NIMF, and countless others) who base their livelihood on convincing us to be frightened of our children. It's how they get money, get air time, and get votes from people who refuse to look around them and will just take information from anyone talking from a box.

They not only do collateral damage to their intended target, they damage our relationships between our kids and us. It is illegal in several states now to write or watch or read any media that depicts violence at a school function, anyone damaging a school or a school official. I guess you can't watch "Ferris Buhler's Day Off" or "Back to the Future" there anymore. A kid in Kentucky went to jail because he wrote a story about zombies taking over a school (see Not his particular school; a fictional school. And it was for an English class. His grandparents read his journal and turned him in to the cops. "Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it's a felony in the state of Kentucky," said Winchester Police detective Steven Caudill. Even if you're the most straight-arrow kid in the world, how would you feel if you knew that doing your English homework could send you to jail?

Does this mean whe're going to see a second-grader in chains for singing old playground classics such as "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school" and "Mary Had a Steamboat"? Why aren't we out peeling every copy of Stephen King's "Carrie" out of the school libraries? My son's lit class read "The Outcasts" out loud in class and acted parts of it out - that's gang violence in a school. Owning "Back to the Future" would qualify - I mean, people are getting beat up at a school dance in there. He's even conspiring with a grown-up to do it! I can think of a lot of things off the top of my head in my home and on the shelves in my kid's school library that would get them and me arrested.

Yes, there are times when kids need to be monitored, and things need to be addressed. I'd also like to see some confirmation from the teacher who assigned the paper. Some specific things about this case don't sound right to me. Like why the heck were his grandparents snooping around in an 18-year-old's journal in the first place.

But there is a larger thought here about the way we are dealing with our kids. What are we doing to our children that people are so afraid of them that they turn the simplest things they do into crimes? None of this is enforceable in a practical sense. There's no real evidence it's necessary or does anything to help. But that's not stopping certain people. And now they are targeting video games.

"Carding laws" of the sort they want to put in place to prevent kids under 17 from purchasing M-rated video games are already in effect for cigarettes and alcahol. They don't do as much as you would hope to prevent teenage smoking and drinking. About 20% of youth smoke, even with all the rules in place against it, and a hefty fine. Good news is that's down from a high of 36% in 1997. See here for the stats. That stat means that one in five teens ADMIT to smoking to a government survey. Teenage drinking is even more prevelent. Depending on age, it ranges from 25% of 8th graders to 53% of 12th graders who admit when surveyed to having drunk in the last month. See here for some good stats.

Think about those stats in the last paragraph. Over half of our high school seniors are drinking and one fifth of them are smoking. Smoking and drinking have medically proven deleterious mental and physical effects, have huge anti-use marketing campaigns and classes taught in school about their dangers. They have huge consequences to kids if they're caught. It still doesn't stop it all. With games, there is none of that. So what if the kid has to bribe his older brother to go buy the game or get Mom and Dad go in and show ID to bring home Super Blood-Soaked Smashum. That's barely a speed-bump. And once they're out the door with the reciept the carding law does absolutely nothing.

If it makes everyone feel better, sure. Make the ESRB ratings legally enforcable. While you're at it, make the MPAA ones enforcable, too. And the ratings on the broadcast and cable TV programs. I'd love to see that. I do it at my house and hopefully just that little wakeup call at the cash register will help make more parents take a look at what they're letting into their house. Just realize that the whole thing has about as much stopping power as hanging gauze across the road in front of a semi when it comes to actually keeping the violent content out of the child's hands. Realize that it will do ABSOLUTELY nothing to affect crime rates or anything else. And realize that this sort of law has been passed in two states already, and struck down as unconstitutional in federal court. So you may get it passed for a while, but it probably won't last past the slow but sure grinding of the justice system.

I don't know exactly why this is happening, but we are raising children that are much less violent that we were. Stop freaking out over a problem that isn't there. We need to find the real root cause of the problems that still exist, and we need to do something about them instead of randomly throwing laws around and treating every child as if they were some sort of psychopath waiting to happen, rather than looking for the actual psychopaths. Stop wasting time on slick snake-oil salesmen who spew nonsense to further their own aims. Take a long hard look at those people and the axe they're grinding and stop it from hitting your kids.

Here's another great article you should read.

The Truth About Violent Youth and Violent Videogames

This is from a gamer's perspective, but it's got some great links in it to the offical government stats and corelates it with the release of videogame home consoles. The very first chart is mapping the FBI's violent crime statistics with the release of the major game systems and the game Grand Theft Auto (the one that everyone had a cow about). The graph that he uses in his update at the bottom of the page is on page 11 of the FBI Report pdf linked to above.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Blogging Ettiquette....

I'm on a major roll here today. I got a piece of email that lists out a whole bunch of stuff I'm doing wrong if I want to be hip. So, in case anyone gives a rat's bikini, here's what they suggest I talk about.....

1) Currently listening to: I assume they mean literally. "Ask DNA" from the Cowboy Bebop movie soundtrack and an argument about whether or not someone scorched someone else's ear with the hair straightener. (Oh, wait. Track changed to "Tank!". This is good because it's harder to hear aforementioned argument.)

2) Mood: quixotic, bordering on piquant (Why yes, I have been eating pickled dictionaries today.)

3) Favorite color: navy blue (I could have been a real smartalec and said something like "fiber optic".)

4) Favorite food: anything that I don't have to do the dishes after cooking (Not fond of licorice at any time, especially not that stuff a friend of mine introduced me to in an Oriental grocery in Richmond. Staying away from chicken feet on general principle as well.)

5) Sign: uhhh.... No Vacancy?

If I've missed anything or whatever, please feel free to let me know. ;)