As classes resume at Virginia Tech, a week after the nation's worst shooting tragedy, researcher George Barna says the event is a dramatic wake-up call to parents.
"The animated conversations about gun control, campus security, counseling standards, campus communications, drug abuse and mental health funding do not address the core issue raised by this event," said Barna in a report. "This situation is not primarily a challenge to politicians, educators or police. It's a dramatic wake-up call to parents."
Drawing from research on parenting, Barna noted growing numbers of children seek to make their way through an increasingly complex life without the traditional safety net comprised of a loving and supportive family, a stable circle of supportive peers, teachers who know and help nurture a child, and a community of faith that assists in giving meaning to life and a sense of belonging.
He also noted that most young people admit that they feel as if they do not receive sufficient attention from their parents; do not have enough good friends whom they can count on; are unsettled about their own future; have personal spiritual perspectives but not much of a sense of spiritual community; lack role models; and do not feel that they have intrinsic value.
Last Monday, Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty members in a dormitory and a classroom building before committing suicide.
Former roommates and classmates recalled Cho as being a shy and quiet student but also described odd behaviors, including his "Question Mark" persona. Andy Koch, Cho's former roommate, had tried taking Cho out to meet friends and hang out, but he told CNN that Cho never opened up and went about his day by himself. Koch also never saw anyone visit Cho, not even his parents.
Barna indicated that parents have a huge influence on certain behaviors and who their children grow up to become.
"Although parents cannot guarantee that their kids will behave in specific ways, but their parenting style and practices can hugely influence the likelihood of certain behaviors and perspectives," he stated.
Citing research on American parents, Barna highlighted that a majority of parents feel overly busy, stressed out or are buckling under the pressure of mounting financial debt. He also noted the standards that parents have established for evaluating their own performance as a parent are innocuous. If their children have avoided publicly recognized problems – such as physical or substance abuse, gang involvement, satanic activity, pregnancy, or physical aggression – and continue to get passing grades in school and stay relatively healthy, the parents believe they are doing an acceptable job.
Cho and his family had immigrated to the United States when he was eight years old. According to the family's former landlord, Lim Bong-ae, Cho's parents had lived in a rented basement apartment – usually the cheapest unit in an apartment building – in a suburb of Seoul, South Korea. After moving to Virginia, the family bought a three-bedroom house in 1997.
Neighbors say Cho's parents were very quiet and nice people who did not take part in many community activities. Jeff Ahn, president of the League of Korean Americans in Virginia, told ABC News that they were hardworking and valued education, just like any other parents in this country, and sometimes worked up to 13 hours a day to send their daughter to Princeton and their son to Virginia Tech.
Cho's family had released a statement on Friday indicating shock and expressing deep apology.
"I feel like I don't know this person," said Cho's older sister, Sun-Kyung. "We never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence."
"He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare," she said on her family's behalf.
Other research points Barna made included the influence of media on children. By the time they are 23 years old, as Cho was before he shot himself, American children will have seen countless murders among the more than 30,000 acts of violence that they are exposed to through television, movies and video games. By the age of 23, the average American will have viewed thousands of hours of pornographic images, which diminish the dignity and value of human life. After nearly a quarter century on earth, the typical American will have listened to hundreds of hours of music that fosters anger, hatred, disrespect for authority, selfishness, and radical independence.
Among the few activities Koch had seen Cho engaged in were listening to music on his laptop – particularly rock, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Collective Soul – going to the gym and riding his bike.