Additional taxes on video games would not significantly impact school shootings. graphic by Conner Maggio

Pennsylvania video game tax doesn’t address cause of school violence

Studies indicate there is little connection between games and violence, despite claims to the contrary

A new bill in the Pennsylvania State Legislature seeks to put a tax on violent video games to lower the risk of school violence. House Bill 109, created by Representative Christopher Quinn, would put a 10-percent tax on video games that are given a Mature or Adults Only rating as established by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
The money received through the taxation would be placed in a new account called the “Digital Protection for School Safety Account” and would be rationed to the Department of Education to improve school safety measures across Pennsylvania. The reason behind this taxation and its use in preventing school violence, according to Quinn, is that, “One of the factors that may be contributing to the rise in, and intensity of school violence, is the material that kids see, and act out in video games.” It is problematic to blame video games for school violence and place a tax on them in response because the reasoning lacks scientific evidence. The argument also avoids the most significant problem in reality: media expansion.

A new study published on January 18 in Royal Society Open Science has found no correlation between violent video games and the aggressive behavior of adolescents. The authors, Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein, stated in the abstract for the study, “There was no evidence for a critical tipping point relating to violent video game engagement to aggressive behaviors.” This study covered 1004 British teenagers and their parents, asked several questions and used other forms of testing to see if there were a behavioral difference between teenagers who played video games and those who did not. This study found little evidence for such claims, besides the regular nature of adolescents involving in a competitive activity. The study clearly demonstrated that the connection between violent video games and the behavior of adolescent teenagers is tenuous at best.

In addition, the National Center for Health Research says that video games are only one of many different factors that contribute to violent activity. They added that mental illness, adverse environments and access to guns are all risk factors of aggression and violence Leaving out the end of this statement and focusing on games creates a false narrative and misrepresents the NCHR’s views. There are other issues that are not being addressed by these guidelines that could have similar or more important effects on the rise of violence in schools. Video games are therefore scapegoated as the sole reason for increased violence without looking at the bigger picture.

The real threat and potentially the most significant cause of school violence is the media contagion effect. In a study titled “Mass Shooting and the Media Contagion Effect,” authors Jennifer Johnston and Andrew Joy argue that the prevalence of media coverage around the school shootings is one of the major motivating factors for mass shooters. The perpetrators view this massive media exposure as a spotlight and seek to imitate those they have seen in previous reports. Increased sensationalist coverage creates copycat killers who base their violence on achieving a similar goal to those they have seen reported on by national news outlets.

By altering the way we cover school shooting and mass violence, we can put a stop to this domino effect. The news should not show the killer’s face nor any manifestos or claims of action. These steps would have a far greater effect than a 10-percent price rise on violent video games.

This proposed video game tax and any similar ones are merely dodging the problem before us. While the effects of video games on adolescents and younger individuals should still be tested in the future, current scientific arguments argue against it as a tool of violence. By implementing better solutions, we can hopefully stem the tide of violence by useful methods rather than scapegoating video games for all our problems.

Post Author: Nathan Hinkle