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Child psychologist says access to guns and games adds to potential for violence

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Posted at 6:21 PM, May 07, 2021

Dr. Doug Goldsmith, a child psychologist and the former director of the Children's Center, says younger adolescents and children may not have the capacity to understand the implications of mass shootings or to put the danger in context.

"I suspect for whatever reason, this child just snapped," Goldsmith said in an in-depth interview on FOX 13's Live at Noon, talking about the circumstance of a shooting that injured two students and one adult at Rigby Middle School in Idaho.

Full in-depth interview: Child psychologist Dr. Doug Goldsmith on school shootings

Goldsmith says children prone to anger now get exposed to cultural influences that encourage them to act out violently. Specifically, he sees children who are callous to violence learned from video games.

"Children in this generation have become kind of numb to that. I'm not so sure that they do fully process [it]. [They think] if I pull out a gun and shoot, you're going to fall down dead, but you'll pop up like you do in the game," Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith also said exposure to guns contributes to a tendency toward violence in children.

"The presence of weapons increases aggressive thoughts and hostile appraisals of the other person's behavior, so this is a big concern," he added. "If a weapon is available to a child, it makes it more likely they will use that weapon in light of a very angry episode."

More broadly, Goldsmith says parents should be aware an anxious child may be afraid to go to school, wondering if they can trust their classmates.

"This is a new level of awareness and a life issue for this generation...the reality that we may have to shut down for the reality that someone may be trying to harm us," Goldsmith said.

He says parents should tell their children to be aware and to report any concerns to adults, while also reminding them it's extremely unlikely they will ever be put in the situation faced by the students at Rigby Middle School.