In the wake of the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and other incidents like it, law enforcement officials are taking threatening online posts even more seriously. After a Chicago-area teen was charged with making disturbing posts regarding his own school shooting ambitions on social media, he wasn’t thrown in jail. Instead, a judge ordered him to stop playing violent video games.
The 16-year-old unnamed sophomore at Lake Park High in Roselle, Illinois, allegedly posted a message on his Snapchat account threatening to commit a school shooting after hearing his classmates discussing an earlier threat that resulted in Lake Park High being closed last Friday, February 24. In the video, he was playing a “violent video game,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
He was subsequently arrested and charged on Tuesday with felony disorderly conduct for the comments. No weapons were found at his home and his public defender argued that the comments were made as a joke, but after spending one night in a juvenile facility, DuPage County juvenile court judge Robert Anderson ordered him to stop playing violent video games while on an indefinite home detention.
“You can play all the Mario Kart you want,” said Anderson, who also ordered the teen to turn over his cell phone to his parents.
The debate on whether or not violent video games can lead to violent real-world actions has raged for decades. Most recently, the University of York conducted an experiment with more than 3,000 participants and found no significant link. The participants were not “primed” for violent acts, regardless of how realistic the game they were playing happened to be.
“There was no difference in priming between the game that employed ‘ragdoll physics’ and the game that didn’t, as well as no significant difference between the games that used ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ soldier tactics,” said researcher David Zendle.
This hasn’t stopped politicians from pointing the finger at violent video games in the wake of tragedy, however. Most recently, President Donald Trump announced a plan to meet with video game executives to discuss what could be done to reduce levels of violence.
In response, the Entertainment Software Associate said it had not received an invitation from the White House. The organization also pointed out that though violent video games are available worldwide, gun violence is “exponentially higher in the U.S. than in other countries.”