So, Wait, Do We Blame Or Praise Tech For Stopping Another Columbine?

from the so-confused dept

We’ve been talking a lot lately about how the press seems to give too much blame or too much praise to technology when a story often has more to do with a person’s choices. Two areas where this has has been seen the most are with violent video games and MySpace. Both seem to get an inordinate number of stories where these digital works get credit or blame when the reality is that the real story is about the people and their (usually bad) choices. So how do we handle a story where the technology gets both blamed and praised? MySpace, which seems to get both types of stories written about it, is now being praised for helping to stop a potential Columbine-like situation, after a student posted some info about a planned teen rampage on his MySpace page. This isn’t all that different than past stories of kids getting caught in crimes after posting their own evidence on MySpace — where the cops are increasingly watching. However, in a past situation where a similar threat was made, instead of praising MySpace for helping catch the kids, it’s been blamed. And, once again here, the story has an element of blaming the technology. For no apparently reason, the article makes sure to mention that the arrested kids planning to attack their school “were computer buffs who liked violent video games.” The implication, of course, being that these violent video game players would now act out on what they learned in the games — the same accusation originally thrown out about the Columbine killers, before most people realized that video games had nothing to do with it. So, instead of praising MySpace or blaming violent video games, why don’t we look at this as a bunch of troubled kids — one of whom talked too much and got them (thankfully) caught before they did any damage.

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Comments on “So, Wait, Do We Blame Or Praise Tech For Stopping Another Columbine?”

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Clair Ching (user link) says:

Technology is just a tool

Technology is a tool – these cases mentioned are of people’s different choices in life. To a certain degree technology makes it possible to do certain things like associate with different kinds of people online (like on My Space) but it all boils down to choices. We, as people, are still responsible for our actions. We can’t just praise or blame technology just because.

Some parents might say otherwise. But I think people really should take the time to listen to each other and be more open so that we could avoid some dilemmas like another Columbine, etc.

Paul (user link) says:

...morals died and parents killed them.

It all comes down to, not technology, but parents. I agree with ‘Laughing’ that we should hold them more acountable.

I mean, who ends up letting their kids play violent videogames, even if that’s a reasonable suspect for violent behavoir? [Which I believe it is not.] Furthermore, who should be watching what their kids are doing online?

Yeah, parents. They take absolutely _no_ blame nowadays.

Riley says:

Re: ...morals died and parents killed them.

“Some parents might say otherwise. But I think people really should take the time to listen to each other and be more open so that we could avoid some dilemmas like another Columbine, etc.”

Parents can say what they want. But, parents must be prepared to take resonsibility for their child(ren)’s actions. Parents have become increasingly dependent upon playing the ‘blame game’ with whoever they can think to pin their own shortcomings as parents on. Parents should be monitoring their own child’s MySpace account. And if they aren’t familiar with what MySpace is, they should sit down and learn it, or simply not allow their child to use it.

Monitor your children and know what they’re up to, or be prepared to take responsibility for their actions. (Or else don’t have any children if YOU’RE not up to the responsibility of raising them!) Stop blaming perfectly decent institutions for your own shortcomings as parents. “People don’t kill people. MySpace kills people.” Please.

Riley says:

Re: Re: Whoops.

Sorry about the typo. I don’t want the fact that I misspelled ‘responsibility’ to take away from my street cred. The general idea still stands: Parents need to set aside the time to properly raise their children. Stop abusing the right to have them, and for God’s sake, stop pawning off your own crap-job as parents on institutions that do not deserve the negative publicity. But, sadly, the people low enough to not supervise their own children will undoubtedly be first in line to blame anyone and everyone they can for their child’s wrongdoings. Poor.

Rob says:

Re: ...morals died and parents killed them.

Most, if not all responsible/respectable parents are not to blame directly,IMHO. In this day and age of touchy-feely-never-damage-your-child’s-self-esteem political correctness, it is practically ILLEGAL to discipline these kids.
I know this through direct experience. I also know through direct experience, these kids are acutely aware of a parent’s lack of rights to adequately punish or hold them accountable, and it fuels their behavior. Just think ‘teenager.’
It is during this phase of child rearing, a parent has to face the toughest years of producing good, responsible, respectful, moral adults-to-be. It is also during this same phase where simply trying to reason, convince or cajole them, is a near impossibility.
A parent has to be willing and legally able, to keep control of them during these years, while their entire sphere of concern is only of themselves and their desires. Morality and wisdom are gained from real parents and within the years of their own experiences. 16 and 17 year-olds do not yet possess this ‘compass.’ Good and proper parenting is the only real hope for our kids. At present, my kids hate me. That means I’m doing my job as their dad. We can all be friends LATER…but… for now, I’m a parent. Part of that job means enduring all the hateful, mean and crude things they say and do to you. It means saying ‘NO’ and meaning it. It means setting clear and enforced standards of conduct and behavior. It means meeting, screening and knowing their friends, knowing where they’re going, where they are and when they’re returning.
I hated my parents during my teens, because they tried to ‘ruin my life’, and make sure I had no fun, or friends. I hated the punishments I received. I swore at them behind closed doors. I have my own teenagers now, and I DO realize what they were up against. Where DID they get the strength to endure me and my siblings, all the while keeping up the standards I spoke of earlier?!
I honor them for it.
If they had not held me at bay, I do believe (like any other unbridled teenager) I would be a complete and utter @$$hole now. I would have grown up believing everything I wanted to do or say, was ok—because I was just ‘expressing’ myself.

Directly blaming video games and/or (most) parents is, on its face, silly. Our culture has devolved to the point where children are indoctrinated with ideas about their own wisdom, rights and choices. Proper parenting has become practically a crime. We’re in the process of raising a generation of kids who have no concept of earning ANYTHING, and to whom everything is owed.

ROb says:

Re: Re: ...morals died and parents killed them.

I forgot to mention one more thing:
I DO monitor both my kids’ ‘MySpace’ accounts, and have successfully foiled a handful of their plans. The funny part is; they had no idea how I found them out. MySpace is turning out to be the parents’ “eyes on the back of my head” for the 21st century.
My, my, my….those kids DO think we’re stupid, don’t they? 😉

ROb says:

Re: Re: ...morals died and parents killed them.

I forgot to mention one more thing:
I DO monitor both my kids’ ‘MySpace’ accounts, and have successfully foiled a handful of their plans. The funny part is; they had no idea how I found them out. MySpace is turning out to be the parents’ “eyes on the back of my head” for the 21st century.
My, my, my….those kids DO think we’re stupid, don’t they? 😉

Hmmmm... you have a point... says:

Re: Re: Re: ...morals died and parents killed them

Hmm… so we allow our kids, even encourage them to have a myspace account so we can monitor their “true” behavior. Brilliant! I love it! am there pal.

I read above, way above, where someone posted that parents “claim” ignorance too often casting blame in other places, media, video games, etc. I think it is not a claim, I think parents ARE ignorant. Not a burn, Single father of two boys here, but given the new challenges in both keeping up with technology, single parenting becoming the norm, social changes in what is acceptable and not accaptable parenting, dealing with the backlash of 80’s and 90’s “friends” parenting and all the chaos that created, we HAVE to become educated as parents. We have to learn skills that will help us guide our kids to becoming successful, healthy, productive members of society. I used to say, “My parents didn’t do any of this crap and I turned out ok”. Pure ignorance. The rules have changed, or maybe they need to be changed back…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: ...morals died and parents killed them.

Exactly! I heard a story on the news yesterday about an 8 year old who stole his teachers car keys, got in her car and drove off, because he wanted to go home. They go on to point out that his favorite game is Grand Theft Auto.

So everyone is like, OMG! Violent game teaching kids to steal cars. Meanwhile, I’m thinking ‘Why the hell did the parents buy that game for their 8 year old in the first place?’

Sadistic Freek (user link) says:

I do not think blaming the parents for all of the things going on is too much better than blaming the games. But parents also shift the blame too easily onto the media. Blaming rock/metal music like Marilyn Manson and Rammstein. Blaming video games like Grand Theft Auto and… I think it was Kingpin when Columbine happened. American McGee, the mind behind the video game Alice, stated it best when he iterated “Does anyone honestly believe that these guys would have led a crime-free life of public service if it weren’t for video games? Here we have maniacs who played video games. Video games did not make them maniacs.” (he’s commenting about a news story that pointed out that two guys who went on a murder spree did so after getting bored of GTA and decided to act the crimes out in real life)

Tashi says:

All TV news cares about is sensationalism. Not ethical reporting or responsibility. If the latest sound byte causes a new round of paranoia, you’ll find a TV crew there.

People don’t want to talk about troubled kids, because then you have to logically talk about our dysfunctional society as a whole, and noone wants to do that, so the latest sound byte (videogames) gets the blame.

Spike says:

Blame the music? The games?

It’s all ridiculous. It’s up to a parent to do two things:

A: Figure out what’s write for their child. I once knew a parent of a 9 year old, who let her child play GTA. I’m sorry, but the kid is 9! Who was at fault there? I think it’s obvious.

B: Help your children understand. Play games WITH them. Find out what they’re playing, and explain things. Make sure they know what they’re seeing is make believe, and they know what would really happen if they were to, say, shoot someone.

It starts when they’re young. Blaming anyone BUT the parents is ridiculous and pathetic. This is all about parents trying to escape the responsibility they laid upon themselves when they decided to have sex.

ViPeRDeSiGnZ says:

I thought things on the internet, like myspace, have NO credibility in court what so ever. I could be wrong. Think about it though, make a myspace with your enemys name then post about how your going to blow up your school. tell the cops. the court has no way of knowing who made the myspace, using it is complete BS.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I thought things on the internet, like myspace, have NO credibility in court what so ever. I could be wrong. Think about it though, make a myspace with your enemys name then post about how your going to blow up your school. tell the cops. the court has no way of knowing who made the myspace, using it is complete BS.

Bah, ever hear of IP logging, you try that and they know exactly where and when that’s done and most imbeciles use their PC or at least their user name they’re busted….

Techno-Literate says:

Re: Re: IP Logging?!?

Um…ever heard of Dial-up ISP, DHCP, or NAT?

Any of these tools can easily be used to nullify any log of your IP address without exception.

If you want to truely find a person without fail, you will have to do it using a hardware MAC address…and even then, it only works if they are on their own computer and not at a public terminal.

It’s not difficult for people to stay “hidden” when doing things online…and a lot of people are hidden just by the nature of the beast…

Don’t be naive.

Riley says: boils down to them.

Oompa, Loompa, doom-pa-dee doo – I’ve got a perfect puzzle for you. What do you get when your kid is a brat? Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat? Blaming the kids is a lie and a shame…You know exactly who’s to blame: The mother and the father.

In America, anyone under 18 years of age is not considered an adult. They are expected to be looked after by a responsible person, (ie, a Parent or Legal Guardian) who is over the age of 18 and is of sound mental capability and capacity. There’s a point to this: persons above the age of 18 are supposedly capable of making important decisions. At the very least, they are held legally accountable for their actions, unless a licensed physician finds they are not of adequate mental capability to be considered an adult.

Adults taking on the additional responsibility of caring for children must be even more mentally sound; as the effects of their guidance go beyond their own personal contacts – they have a significant impact on their children’s lifestyle and beyond. Place the (legal) burden on the parents, and you’ll see significant results.

Yes, our society is skewed. Yes, there are more and more broken homes created on a day-to-day basis – but there is a point where enough is enough. Living in America has become too easy. People can plead ignorance far too often, and there is absolutely no requirement for people to accept responsibility for their actions. If you have a child, YOU are responsible for their actions until they are of legal age to accept full responsibility themselves.

Let’s stop idiot-proofing America, and let’s start holding people accountable for their (or their offspring’s) actions.

“Campaign to Bubble Wrap America!”

Gomorrah (profile) says:

My reaction

Viper, there you are wrong. Not in terms of MySpace standing up in court, but because what you are saying is easily traced. MOST computer users do not bother hiding where they are in terms of the sites they visit. Now, if somebody on MySpace were to create a profile such as that, the police would not only ask for the name, but also the IP address. Now, some of the people here may use proxies, and other tools (not too well versed in that, my apologies) in order to hide themselves, but most users do not. They trace the IP of whoever created that profile, and voila, they come to your address.

So, yes, what you say would not work on many people who might visit a site such as this, or any other site for people who may know a bit more about computers then the average user, but do you truly believe that the majority of MySpace users even know what a proxie is?

Now, as to the video games creating problems. Parents watch their children. Simple as that. It has been said a million times before, and it will be said a million times in the future. It would not surprise me if items such as this actually end up not being posted at all, as it happens way too often, and with nothing coming of it that it becomes a waste of time.

Leo says:

Hooray the blame game.

All this really is the blame game. Where real people at fualt blame some one else. We had a bombing threat written at our school, and the stupid bloat bothered to right the threat on a school computer, none the less was logged into computer instead of being a “Guest” On computer. He was caught momentarily. But we did 4 hours outside of the school. Yeah, if you want to do something for love of god just do it. if you can’t than don’t. See all these bombers and shooters are cowards and they are actully looking for sporrot on doing these hanus things.

Lucid Coercion says:


Censorship will never be the answer to anything. I’ve watched violent movies and played violent video games for as long as I can remember (20 now) and never once had the urge to go out and do anything that I saw in the movie or game. Parents need to educate and talk to their kids about these movies/games, not censor them. In all that time of growing up, I’ve also been an avid hunter. Guns are all around me, but again, no urge to use them other than how they are supposed to be used. It’s all about listening to your kids, knowing what they’re thinking, educating them, and actually spending time with them.

As a side note, even if it were the games’ that made these kids want to go out and do whatever, it makes no difference. The kid still did it, the parents didn’t do their job, therefore the blame lies there. Don’t blame the providers of content/entertainment, but those that misuse and abuse that content.

ZOMG CENSORED (user link) says:


Luddites never have this problem. They abolish all technology so the only place to send the blame is the schools or parents who don’t beat their kids hard enough.

My proposal is for people who blame technology pointlessly to convert to luddites and move to a colony where they can beat their kids at their leisure without the fear of technology getting in the way of all that blame…

Ron Goodwyne says:

Not the technology

Tech Dirt loves to push on “blame the technology” when I don’t think that is the real issue. As the parent of a former teenager who spent a LOT of time on MySpace, I never saw the “technology” as the problem. It was the irresponsible use of technology. For example, MySpace used to have a policy that you had to be 18 or older to use the site. Most users, however, we high school students who lied about their age when signing up. MySpace was perfectly aware of this and had no problem with it. As far as they were concerned, their asses were covered because they “required” members to be 18 or older.

I’m not stupid enough to think MySpace could police everything but they made no effort at all. It was to their benefit that people ignored their rules.

In the end parents bear much of the responsibility for problems with their kids. But the fact is, MySpace has created an easy vehicle for kids, particular girls, to get into trouble without much effort. We were very involved parents and we constantly hammered on online safety with our daughter. But peer pressure and ubiquitous access to the internet trumps parental involvement. Our daughter still posted stuff that put her at risk and communicated with total strangers. Thankfully nothing ever happend to her. Unfortunately, others aren’t so lucky.

It is my belief that MySpace and other social networks like it, have a responsiblity to do everything they can to protect their members from preditors. If they choose not to, the day will come when it costs them more than they can bear as a company. That’s still a small price compared to what it ultimately costs some young girls.

Denfro Licious says:


Everyone says “blame the parents” but I honestly believe it starts at depression. The people who try to commit these acts are doing it because they’re trying to make a statement, “listen to me.” Unfortunately by then their self-esteem is so low they believe that they no longer matter and take their last stand. The parents may be at fault, however how can you justify what a child does because of a divorce?

Misc. Commentor says:

Re: hmm

Or we could blame the people who cause the depression in the teenager. Let’s see… that would be

a. Their parents

b. Other students

I find myself depressed from time to time, but I still have to take responsibility for my own actions. It still comes down to someone needing to instill the proper respect for others in our kids. That job, unfotunately, falls on the shoulders of a bunch of parents who simply WONT DO IT.

ben says:

What if it was 50 years ago and we didn’t have this technology. The kid wrote it in his journal on a piece of paper with pencil that he was planning on shooting another kid at school with his .22 rifle. He also was a kid who liked to play games, draw pictures, and write stories on paper with his pencil, and his games were often violent or disturbing ones.

Get rid of paper, get rid of pencils, they are evil. 🙂 This kid is an angel, an innocent child who has been demented by paper and pencil. We must abolish paper and pencil.

I think we are just not punishing kids hard enough. I’ll bet these kids needed a good spanking, or a butt-kicking threat from their daddys.

cheetr says:


Actually, the blame doesn’t lie solely on the parents. It lies in many places. Schools, parents, and the perps themselves are all to blame for these things. At schools, it is not hard to find things happening that cause this kind of behavior. Also, I would think that your kid having a huge stack of guns lying around somewhere might be at least somewhat noticeable. Don’t blame the game, blame those humans who sat back and watched. Then, kill them. JOKING!! But seriously, if you just ignore something and then go “oh my what a massacre” when it goes down, you are to blame for it!

SkippyTMut says:

Bad Parenting

I don’t know about you guys, but I grew up playing Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Doom II, Duke Nuke’em, and all of the subsequent gore fest, violance ridden games through the years. I also, like all other regular people had problems with some people at school. We’ve all been in fights and bad situations. However, I also had parents that took the time to talk to me and listen to me and spend time with me and teach me right from wrong. Although I saw all of the violence and gore in my video games I never once had an urge to go in to my school with a chain saw, pistol, machine gun, shotgun, double barrel shotgun, rocket launcher, plasma gun or any other weapon and destroy the place. So as far as I can tell the only difference between me and these kids is that my parents are decent people who actually took the time to be good parents!

Someone needs to stop allowing the parents to use the technology “excuse” and very simply point out that if they had come down off their high horses for a few minutes and actually spent time with their kids instead of being so self-involved as many parents are these days that maybe, just maybe these kids would understand the difference between right and wrong and why things that happen in video games are NOT supposed to happen in real life.

sheshe says:

2 cents can grow to 1 million+

Blame parents, blame technology, blame advertising, blame the school system, blame the government, blame the teachers, blame the media, blame the pit bull breed, blame someone, something and anyone, anything else except yourself.

“I am not accountable for my actions, the devil made me do it.”

Haha, the human species, we blame the very products of our own imaginations. We created the world around us in a cumulative effort and then turn our back and point in the other direction when it comes to accountablity.

I was one of those people that said parents parents parents. But today I’m changing my view. I believe that parents should be involved in their childrens’ lives. Ask questions, help educate them on how to make better decisions, well that’s hoping that those parents were raised to know?? hmmm, my mommy worships the devil, and yours? so how do we get around that??? (She doesn’t really, but someone’s does and well… not everyone has a family like the Cleavers)

we now live in a society where we are so connected I can go anywhere and find anyone to help me figure out what I want and need. Now the village needs to step up and step in and do its part to make the whole, well whole again. I can get on any site today and interact/post my views and opinions with people all over. From this day forth… I will do my part everyday to make my village stronger. When the walls of Rome are strong, no army of Sparticans can penetrate. People are so quick to throw their hands up in the air rather than fight, and here we all are spouting out these views on a page that’s lost in a sea of information while there are others out there that need to hear your views. People go out and get on your own myspace page and blog it out. Is your bite as big as your bark? or will you stay where it’s safe and talk amongst yourselves? I’m not criticizing you I’m supporting you and thanking you all for helping me realize that I, although one person, can take a more active role to making the world around me a little better.

“There are people I know who won’t hurt me. I call them corpses.”

– Randy K. Milholland

“A satirist is a man who discovers unpleasant things about himself and then says them about other people.”

– Peter McArthur

Joey says:

Violent video games

Why the hell are video games always blamed for stuff they had nothing to do with. I play violent video games and I don’t want to kill people!!! It’s not the games, its the kids that do the stupid things. You know who we should blame, the parents! They are the ones who rased the kids, they should take responsibility for the kids.

Jack Denmark says:

Blame game

It’s odd how history repeats itself… Previously comics – and then movies – and then rock and roll – and now games are blamed for an allegedly decaying society. Hell, even swing (the dance) were blamed in the 20s.

I would like to see someone collect all these allegations and put it all into a beautiful repository – they’re all based on the same principle “I don’t understand it so it must be bad; therefore all things bad comes from this.”

I’m worried that in 50 years we’ll be sitting around complaining that the “3D virtual mind transfer games” are corrupting our kids and they should just sit down and play some good old fashioned blood’n gore games on a regular computer.

Billy says:

lots of opinions

Lots of decent opinions on this one. I don’t really have one on this, or should I say, I don’t feel like sharing it as it already been said by 3-4 people. But I do have a comment that I’d like people to think about for a second.

Anyone ever notice that some parents hardly ever accept responsibilty for what their children do, yet they won’t hesitate to use them as an excuse (or even a tool) for their own agendas?

How many times have you heard some “Think about the children……” bullshit spouted by some self-rightious parent?

Want an example? Ok, how about saving the enviroment? You know if we don’t save the enviroment there won’t be anything left for our kids……….

I even heard this from some chained-to-a-tree protester on TV. They were screaming some drivel about there not being any trees left and thus the air would fill with CO2 and we’d all die……….ok maybe an extremist isn’t the BEST example in this case, but it’s an example none the less.

Another great one that’s currently in the media is “Same sex marriages.” The children excuse has been used time and time again on this one. If it really were about the children, why don’t they push for laws that ban same-sex couples from adopting…….oh wait, because then they’d look like intollerant psychos for suggesting such a ban……..

Here, go do your own experiment. Next time you hear someone use “for the children” as a reason for doing something, I want you to SERRIOUSLY consider WHY it’s “for the children.”

Hahahahahhahahaha…..ok get THIS one. Type in “for the children” into Google…use the quotes so it searches for that phrase.

Count how many .ORGs you see.

Now I want you to realize that there is a very good percentage of “not for profits” in this country AND abroad that are specifically “for profit.” Meaning, this is what people do for a living. That means, if your primary employment is with a not-for-profit orginization, you may be paid a fair salary. In some cases you’d become ill if you knew how much the heads of these orginizations get paid.

Now don’t go thinking this is how ALL not-for-profits operate, it isn’t. I’d like to think that the majority are legit, and I think for the most part that is true. Still there’s are some that GLARINGLY stand out, and some of those are specifically “for the children.”

“For only 80 cents a day you can sponsor your own child……”

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