A violent act along a busy Highway in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday, has been making the social media rounds.

A video that has since gone viral, showing two men and a woman involved in a heated Highway fight that saw stab wounds afflicted to at least two of those involved, is now the topic of much discussion in Trinidad and Tobago. How much is too much?

For quite some time, the issue of social media’s role in society’s desensitisation of crime and criminal behaviour in the country, has been pondered. Needless to say, not much has been done, if anything at all, to stop the trend of posting and sharing videos of bloody murder scenes, victim carcasses, sexually abused children, violent robberies and other such harsh visual content. For parents, the reality of their children’s unexpected exposure to such content, blares. Sadly, not every parent has the option of keeping their eyes peeled to their children at every second of the day.

Truth is, violence is everywhere in today’s society. From video games to movies, cartoons, nightly news, and certainly the web. It’s becoming tedious to guard the young and impressionable. While experts agree that no single factor can cause a nonviolent person to act aggressively, heavy exposure to violent media can be a risk factor for violent behaviour, they say.

Experts have also found that children who are exposed to multiple risk factors, including aggression and conflict at home, are the most likely to behave aggressively.

The topic of desensitisation is also one that comes to the fore. A study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that parents who watched a lot of movies were more likely to say it was OK for younger kids to watch movies that had R-rated violence and sexual content. The great news is that as parents, you lead the way and as such, you can decide what you want your child/children to absorb from the media.

Here are a few tips on how parents can manage media violence and its effects on your children’s lives. 

  • Explain consequences. What parent hasn’t heard “but there’s no blood” as an excuse for watching a movie or playing a video game? Explain the true consequences of violence, and point out how unrealistic it is for people to get away with violent behavior.
  • Keep an eye on the clock. Don’t let kids spend too long with virtual violence. The more time they spend immersed in violent content, the greater its impact and influence.
  • Teach conflict resolution. Most kids know that hitting someone on the head isn’t the way to solve a disagreement, but verbal cruelty also is violence. Teach kids how to use their words responsibly to stand up for themselves — and others — without throwing a punch.
  • Know your kids’ media. Check out ratings, and, when there are none, find out about content. For example, content in a 1992 R-rated movie is now acceptable for a PG-13. Streaming online videos aren’t rated and can showcase very brutal stuff.
  • Keep an eye on interactive media violence. There’s no way to accurately measure whether there’s more or less violence than in the past, but the pervasiveness of it in interactive forms, such as social media, online videos, and video games, is relatively new.

Advice based on age : 

  • Two- to 4-year-old kids often see cartoon violence. But keep them away from anything that shows physical aggression as a means of conflict resolution, because they’ll imitate what they see.
  • For 5- to 7-year-olds, cartoon rough-and-tumble, slapstick, and fantasy violence are OK, but violence that could result in death or serious injury is too scary.
  • Eight- to 10-year-olds can handle action-hero sword fighting or gunplay so long as there’s no gore.
  • For 11- to 12-year-olds, historical action — battles, fantasy clashes, and duels — is OK. But closeups of gore or graphic violence (alone or combined with sexual situations or racial stereotypes) aren’t recommended.
  • Kids age 13 to 17 can and will see shoot-’em-ups, blow-’em-ups, high-tech violence, accidents with disfigurement or death, anger, and gang fighting. Point out that the violence portrayed hurts and causes suffering, and limit the time they’re exposed to violence, especially in video games.
  • Most M-rated games aren’t right for kids under 17. The kid down the street may have the latest cop-killer game, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for him. The ultra-violent behavior, often combined with sexual images, affects developing brains. Just because your child’s friend is allowed to play violent games or watch violent movies doesn’t mean they’re OK for your child.