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May 12, 2020
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I grew up in Oklahoma, where we had a weekly broadcast of “Championship Wrestling” – pronounced “Rasslin'”. Bodies flying through the air, launched from the ropes or charging from the corners, on the screen of our black and white TV. Dramatic screams of agony. Heads bouncing off the mat. It was all choreographed and scripted. We knew it probably was, but we were willing to suspend our disbelief and watch the dance as if it were real. And sometimes us boys would adjourn to the back yard when it was over and have our own Championship Rasslin’ match. Often it ended with somebody getting hurt. People my age know what I’m talking about.

In the last several years, rasslin’ has taken quite a turn. In my opinion, a turn for the worse. Bodies still fly through the air. There is still some scripted plot line – good guys vs. bad guys (or girls as the case may be). But the ad libs on the script are more violent, more aggressive, more just plane mean than I remember them from the Championship Rasslin’ days. The advertisements for WWE and it’s competitors all capitalize on the meanness and violence. “This ain’t your daddy’s wrestling.”

I won’t beat around the bush. My problem with this new breed of professional wrestling is that it normalizes violence. It also glamorizes it. These new pro wrestlers are millionaires on their way to being multi-millionaires, and are happy to flaunt it. They play to packed and ravenous coliseums of wild fans. And millions of TV and Internet fans. They’re bona fide celebrities.

I don’t resent them for their income or their celebrity. I don’t really resent them at all, personally. In terms of executing their scripts with believably, they’re actually talented. I’m not advocating that someone launch a campaign to shut them down, either. After all, a fair case can be made that College and Professional Football are equally as violent. So is boxing. So were the Three Stooges. And the Wiley Coyotee and the Road Runner.

But the difference between boxing and football and WWE is that in both boxing and football, there are rules that govern combat. In football, many of the rules have been placed for the protection of players against injuries from unnecessary violence. As far as I can tell, there are no rules in WWE. Except maybe for, “Do unto them before they can do unto you.”

It would be easy for me to tap dance on my soapbox for another hour about this, but that’s not what I want to do – although there is much that I could write. What I want to tap dance a little about is the normalization of violence. This, I believe, is a dangerous trend that we overlook to our harm, as individuals, families and a culture as a whole.

Here’s where my concern starts. Who is the target audience for WWE? They’ll tell you it’s anybody with a TV or Internet connection. And that’s probably true in the broadest sense. But when you look more closely, it doesn’t take a degree in cultural anthropology to figure out that adolescent boys are either the bull’s eye of their target, or very near it. Adolescent boys, who generally have cash at their disposal, and who know how to spend it. They also have an abundance of testosterone and adrenaline. Like 24/7. They have far more physical capability than they have emotional and mental control. Their impulse control neurology is quite underdeveloped.

That’s a recipe for some bad stuff.

I believe the same should be said for the violent video games that are targeted and pitched at teens. I sometimes see quotes and comments saying that no hard evidence exists from empirical research to verify that there is a connection between the violence of TV and video games and the violence that is acted out in society. Frankly, I disbelieve this. The more I learn about the brain, the more convinced I am that there is a very strong (in my opinion, undeniable) connection between what adolescents (and younger children) see and what they do.

If you’re a teacher, you don’t need me to tell you that students are more violence-prone today than they were even 5 years ago. (You don’t need me to say their attention spans have shrunk, too. This, I believe, is a result of the .10 second duration of most images they view on TV. It is even more true and powerful in the video games they play.)

VR (Virtual Reality) games put all this on steroids. The division between the reality of the real world and the fiction of the game world are blurred by the vividness of the images, sounds, experience. Even adults have trouble keeping the two separated.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU GE THIS: I am not saying that WWE and video games are of the Devil. You make your own judgment about that. But what I am saying is that when young people are exposed to gratuitous violence, it normalizes violence. And that’s a problem.

If you’re a Christian and a parent, you’ve got the very heavy responsibility to raise your kids to know God and His design for life. The point of raising them is to release them into their own lives and choices, having done what you can to make them ready for those lives and choices. I am not advocating that you control all your teens’ choices. That won’t work. I’m advocating that you set up the appropriate guard rails that will guide your teen to make good choices for themselves.

The younger the child, the more essential it is that you, the parent, set the boundaries. But as your child ages, they must learn how to set and live with boundaries they set for themselves. I’ve got a ton more to say about this. But not all at once in this post.

For this post, here’s my challenge to you, Mom, Dad. Respectfully dialogue with your teens and pre-teens about what they’re watching and the games they’re immersing themselves in.

Those first two words are the operative ones. RESPECTFULLY. DIALOGUE.

The best time to do that is ahead of the curve. Talk about this before a crisis about it.

Unfortunately, lots of families won’t be able to get ahead of it. That train already left the station. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just start where you are. Set up a calm, even relaxed conversation with them and have a respectful dialogue about it.

Before you do that, ask God to put respect in your heart and words, and that He will open your kid’s heart. You won’t get too far on your own. Nobody’s that smart. Not even you.

Ask God to give you the courage to set up a time and open the respectful dialogue, and then humbly follow His lead.

From → Parenting

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