In Wisconsin, three teenage boys beat and killed a homeless man, and later described the fight as “like a videogame”. I hate hearing the videogame defense, because it seems like a normal teenager should have the ability to distinguish between a computer game and actually killing someone. I played Frogger when I was little, but I don’t run out in the street and play in traffic. I played a lot of Sierra games, too, but I didn’t turn into a kleptomaniac.
Videogames, violent movies and metal music don’t make kids criminals. Bad parents make kids into criminals. Gabe from the webcomic Penny Arcade lists things that the parents might have taught their kids.
3. Don’t murder people.
Ah here’s a big one. I wonder, did the parents simply avoid the “don’t murder people” talk the way other parents might avoid the “sex” talk? Maybe one day as the father was running off to work the mother called behind him, ”Don’t forget, you promised to talk to Chris about not murdering people today!” The husband already half way out the door would holler back “Yeah yeah, I’ll do it when I get home tonight.”
He also sums up my belief that bad or neglectful parents are to blame more than pop culture.
These kids were twelve kinds of nuts and that’s a fact. Their parents either made them nuts or weren’t paying attention while they went nuts on their own. I don’t know which scenario is worse.
The stepmother of one of the boys charged (actually she’s the father’s girlfriend, but she’s lived with the father and his sons for several years) read Gabe’s rant and wrote back to Penny Arcade, describing her life with the boy.
But the reason I am writing this to you is that, after reading your news post yesterday, I felt that I needed to defend the boy’s parents. His mother and father and I did absolutely everything we could think of to try to keep this kid in line. Even the kinds of things that normal teenagers get in trouble for would have been a blessing compared to what we’ve been through with him.
The letter (which is heartbreaking, seriously, don’t read it if you’re going to Penny Arcade for a laugh) sheds some light on the kid’s life. The father’s girlfriend is 29 with a teenage stepson, the mother’s boyfriend was in jail at the time, etc. But after reading it, I don’t know if I can say “Bad parents make criminals” or just “Bad circumstances make criminals”.
The whole letter, and the Penny Arcade comments leading up to it, can be found here.