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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

From the Mouths of Teenagers, Needed Wisdom

May 26, 1999|MIKE DOWNEY

A week doesn't go by without an adult-- usually a number of adults--crabbing that the kids of today are shooting up America's schools because they have been exposed to the most malicious, vicious, vile, violent, criminal-creating, maniac-making vices and devices that Satan ever dreamed up . . . video games.

On and on these people go, convinced we can help rid this country of unnatural-born killers by taking away their joysticks.

With every new murder, someone writes:

"See? How do you feel NOW, pal?"

Or:

"I bet this makes you sorry for saying video games don't cause kids any harm."

Or:

"These games teach kids to kill!"

Yeah, sure.

So did those arcade devils of old, Super Mario, Donkey Kong and the diabolical Ms. Pac-Man.

And so did all the Roy Rogers six-shooters and Buck Rogers ray guns, not to mention those danger-addicted G.I. Joe dolls that inspired kids to save their allowances so they could go shopping at their friendly neighborhood Hand Grenades R Us.

Right, let's get rid of video games, so we can save all the children of the world!

Hey, maybe I'll sponsor a drive to destroy all video games, CDs and TVs, so adults can gather around, hold hands and sing that "Did you ever know that you're my hero?" song to me.

*

Fortunately, in our high schools today we still have a lot of safe, sane, sharp students who can play video games without wanting to blow up the universe, like the ones at North High in Torrance from Carole Shakely's senior English class.

The only regrettable thing about their recent class essays on videos (and TV, music or movies) "causing violence" is that there isn't room here to reprint all 22 they sent me, word for word.

"I believe if a kid brings over 30 bombs, taking the precious time to make every one, and carries many weapons to school, in hopes of murdering his classmates, the blame goes much further than Marilyn Manson, video games and violent movies," writes Melissa Anderson. "These kids had problems and they chose not to deal with them."

Crystal Henning: "What causes people to kill are the depression and loneliness they feel, not the books they read or games they play. If it's not the neglect of your parents that causes it, then it will be the people you go to school with, or even your teachers. This world will never be perfect and evil will always find a way, just as good finds a way."

Da-Ron Jackson: "What people don't understand is, parents can punish you as much as they want and could tell you not to do something, but if a teenager's mind is set on doing it, they're going to do it anyway. There is no one to blame for what happened except the kids who committed those murders."

Tyler Owens: "When I first heard that the two kids [from Littleton] liked to play the video game Doom, I thought to myself that they were going to try to blame video games. The kids were crazy and they snapped. I agree someone should make sure this won't happen again, but they are going about it in the wrong way."

Brigitte Springer: "Many people play violent video games and are perfectly normal. They don't go around killing people. They know that it's not reality."

Jamie Palakanis: "People are so completely arrogant! It makes me mad that adults have to blame the stuff that they don't understand."

Tony Burke: "In Japan, zero children were killed by firearms in one year. Video games are extremely popular there, and include as much or more violence as those in America."

*

Thanks, class. A-pluses for everybody.

Kids always pay an unfair price for what other kids pull. It's like being kept after class.

"I think everyone just wants an answer why these boys did what they did," Jenny Glass writes, "and it is easier to blame it on a video game, television or music than not knowing why. The unknown scares people. Nobody knows why it [Littleton] happened. The only people who know why they did it are no longer here to ask."

And what of keeping video cameras on students all day?

"We shouldn't be chained down with a dozen cameras surveilling our every move," writes Marcela Vega. "Then we would be more like prisoners instead of high school students. I wonder how we will be in 50 years."

Smarter than some of today's adults, that's how you'll be.

*

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. E-mail: mike.downey@latimes.com

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