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(Photo: REUTERS/Matthew Tostevin)A child plays video game Minecraft at the Minecon convention in London July 4, 2015.

On February 14th I watched the news footage coming in of the students being moved out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. I could not help but notice how calm most of them seemed. Then the media started talking to students who had actually witnessed some of the mass murders by Nikolas Cruz. Once again the students' calm demeanor before the cameras amazed me.

My first impression was that the students seemed very strong. Then the Spirit of God seemed to remind me of something. The teens of 2018 are not ordinary. These children, by the time they are 18 years old, according to a recent report by the American Association of Family Physicians, have witnessed 200,000 acts of violence via media! These are the children of war. Not real war for the most part, but wars and violent acts developed by the keyboards of their creators for movies, television, and other forms of media entertainment. 

Once I opened our five-day a week Teen Talk Radio broadcast every day with the same question: "How many people have you killed this week? (Electronically)"! As video games grew more lifelike, and as video screen technology continued to improve, the feel for realism was something, which creators promoted in the marketing of their products. Kids were shocked by the question, but it got them thinking. As I have watched this desensitizing of violence literally grow up in our country and around the world, I am convinced that God has gradually shown me in prayer some not so obvious evils concerning this form of entertainment.

Our bodies have many different working parts but all tie in together. The problems facing our teenagers in America are likewise separate, but complicate the other. It is not as simple as blaming the gaming industry or other media for mass shootings. However, someone needs to be foolish to not see that it contributes to the problem. I believe that a lot of research on the subject could easily be skewed or prejudiced and influenced by big monies at the top. One large study I saw by widely accepted Markley, Markley and French only studied the effects of game sales and purchase as it correlates to national violent crime from 1978- 2011. Things have changed drastically concerning violent crime in the past seven years, yet they deem video games of today safe due to that outdated study. Those studies do not truly reflect the influence these violent games have on the general population in 2018. By their own admission, the studies are done on well-adjusted college students who are close at hand.

The video gaming industry is huge. The value of the video game market in the United States was estimated at 17.69 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, while the entire global video games market was valued at 75 billion U.S. dollars that same year.

Whenever that kind of revenue is involved, there are gigantic incentives to cover up any negative consequences of its use. In addition, our culture is influenced by with the huge "gamer" mindset of millions of adults who love the thrill and excitement of playing the games themselves. What we have Your Honor is a tainted judge and jury refusing to prosecute the accused.

The intention of this article is not to try to stop the use of video games. What I would like to suggest is that violent video games do contribute to the collection of multiple tools of spiritual warfare being launched against the children of this nation to affect their minds. Video games, social media, television, the Internet and the movie industry are all tentacles of the enemy of darkness. How much and how often he can use graphic imagery that is so lifelike, and even sometimes 3D on our modern high definition screens, gets down to one of two factors. How much and how often teens use them? The second has to do with where they are at spiritually and mentally when they do. The truth is huge percentages of the teens from our own youth groups are leaving church behind as they head into adulthood.

On January 6, 2006 ABC News posted an article on the Web called " Does the Matrix Inspire the Disturbed?" It reported that the movie "The Matrix Reloaded" had broken box office records as the movie had grossed 93.3 million dollars that weekend. When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold attacked Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, killing 13 people and themselves, investigators said the killers evoked Neo, Keanu Reeves' character in "The Matrix."

I hope the Christian community would join me in asking the question borrowing from the above CBS title. "Do violent movies and video games inspire the disturbed?" Could the government require some of the 17.69 billion U.S. dollars to do studies on the effect they have on "troubled teens" or possibly the teens of special needs families?

The U.S. Military believes in the effect video games have on young minds. The "America's Army" video games have a tight integration with US military messaging online, merging stories from real soldiers in with advertising. The U.S. Army developed these games to aid in finding military recruits. If the U.S. Army believes in the power of video games to influence young minds then why are we surprised when they do? 

In this series of articles entitled "Understanding America's Youth in Crisis" my prayer is that you now better understand their world. If anyone should stand accountable it should be we who are the adults. We who are the adults should seek God on how to strive to positively affect the teen culture. May we become better spiritual leaders, fathers, mothers, teachers, and older brothers and sisters. May God also help us come up with ideas to entertain and care for a generation glued to a screen, who in their hearts truly long for our companionship. Know that He is the living water that never runs dry.

Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.
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