I think exposure to violence across different mediums has a cumulative effect on desensitizing people to violence. The reality is that for most people nowadays their most common experience of violence is through the prism of the media, and even if it’s experienced vicariously without violence in the media most people would have even less experience of it. This could give people, particularly those of a young and impressionable age, a sense that violence is more common and acceptable than would otherwise be the case. For example, the use of guns is almost a normal occurrence in the US crime shows that I grew up watching and although I’m not a gamer, I’m pretty sure that’s the case in many popular video games too. This could contribute to a culture in society which encourages violence. Then there is the issue of sexual violence in pornography, which increasing numbers of young people are now exposed to mainly because they have easier access to pornography than ever before through the internet and mobile devices. This is particularly a problem for society if young people come to regard sexual violence as perfectly normal behaviour. For example, a recent survey into sexual attitudes of young people in the UK found that a significant proportion of boys have a casual attitude to sexual consent.
I agree that it is difficult to identify specific causes and effects and so it would be problematic to provide any solutions, but it shouldn’t stop society investigating potential causes. For example, there was a recent public consultation in the UK on whether to automatically block internet access to pornography on all computers unless adults specifically requested access from their ISP.
The Newtown murders have renewed a discussion about the culture of violence in the US, the entertainment industry's embrace of violence in movies, TV shows and, especially, video games; and the link with mental health:
"The violence in the entertainment culture — particularly, with the extraordinary realism to video games, movies now, et cetera — does cause vulnerable young men to be more violent."
- Sen. Joe Lieberman.
"There might well be some direct connection between people who have some mental instability and when they go over the edge — they transport themselves, they become part of one of those video games."
- Gov. John Hickenlooper
White House adviser David Axelrod asked: "But shouldn't we also quit marketing murder as a game?"
One game designer said: "The ultraviolence has to stop. I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately I think it will cause us trouble."