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Teenage Hammer Murderer Case Re-opens Debate About Impact of Screen Violence on Young Minds

Posted on the 04 April 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Teenage hammer murderer case re-opens debate about impact of screen violence on young minds

Daniel Bartlam. Photo credit: YouTube

Daniel Bartlam, a 15-year-old boy who murdered his mother with a claw hammer and set her body on fire has been detained for a minimum of 16 years. Bartlam had denied murder but admitted the manslaughter of his mother, Jacqueline Bartlam, following a row at their Nottinghamshire home in the early hours of 25 April 2011.

The particularly brutal murder – Jacqueline was stuck seven times with hammer blows – has been linked to the then 14-year-old’s fascination with so-called torture porn films like Saw and to a hammer murder plot in long-running British soap opera Coronation Street. The court heard he had been particularly interested in a storyline involving the character John Stape, reported the BBC. In the soap, Stape had murdered a woman with a hammer and then left her body in the wreckage of a tram crash.

The crime has re-opened the heated debate about what part, if any, screen violence plays in encouraging teenagers to commit violent crimes in real life.

Sick screen violence partly to blame. “I fear this cynical celebration of violence will inspire more young killers,” wrote Professor Craig Jackson in The Daily Mail, who said Bartlam’s “callous, savage violence appears to have been partly inspired by a young boy’s addiction to sick horror films and extreme video games.” Jackson said that “in his obsession” with horror films, Bartlam “seems to have descended into his own dark world where he turned gruesome fiction into lethal reality. Moreover, as his fixation with violence grew, he also became increasingly drawn to crime drama programmes, such as the ITV series Trial And Retribution, as well as murderous storylines in soaps such as Coronation Street, which was said to have inspired his use of the hammer. In both its psychological origins and the sheer scale of the violence, Bartlam’s case raises deeply troubling questions about the nature of some so-called modern ‘entertainment’ and its influence over juvenile minds.” “As a psychologist, I can see plausible links between the kind of extreme aggression exhibited by Daniel Bartlam — though still extremely rare — and the phenomenal expansion of realistic, stylised and simulated screen violence that is intrinsic to plots or gameplay, be it in video games, films or on television,” said Jackson, who particularly worried about the corrosive impact of torture porn: “The fans of such films are locked into a vicious downward spiral, whereby their responses to stimuli become deadened by the repetition of certain images. So, just as drug addicts need ever stronger substances to gain a high, these fetishists for extreme horror want ever more vileness to excite them. And then, for the ultimate kick, they may seek to recreate the ghastly fantasies they have witnessed, either by writing or drawing, or re-enacting them, as Daniel Bartlam did.”

The average British child now spends 2,000 hours staring at a computer screen every year, with neurologists concerned that this could have seriously detrimental effects on their brains, such as causing ‘temporary dementia,’ reported The Daily Mail.

Steady on, games not the root cause. Writing in The Mirror, Professor Mark Griffiths, director at the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, said “I believe there’s something inherently wrong with people like Daniel which predisposes them towards violence. He would choose the most violent games and seek out the most gory movies. Games and films could affect how he might do something and give him ideas, but they are unlikely to be the root cause. If I play those games, I’m not going to murder my parents. Maybe he was exposed to violence when young because that does have has a great influence in later life. However, I don’t let my three teenagers play violent video games. Just because I don’t think there’s a clear link doesn’t mean there’s no effect. But it’s not a scapegoat. Individuals are responsible for their own actions.”

Parricide is “assumed to be uncommon but occurrences are more frequent than we might think. In the United States where guns are more widely available, a parent is killed by their own child almost every day,” reminded psychotherapist Philippa Perry at The Guardian’s Comment is free.

End the isolation, reduce parricide. Writing at The Guardian’s Comment is free, psychotherapist Philippa Perry attempted to explain “why children kill parents.” Perry noted that “research suggests that children who commit this act fall into one of three categories: the severely mentally ill child; the dangerously antisocial child; and – by far the most common, in over 90% of cases according to one study – the severely abused child who is pushed beyond his or her limits. I have heard nothing to suggest that Daniel Bartlam’s upbringing was anything other than ordinarily loving. However, having heard many shocking tales of parental abuse, my puzzlement is not so much why children murder their parents, but why more of these murders aren’t committed.” Perry insisted that, when it comes to parricide, “prevention is better than a cure. At antenatal classes, less time could be spent teaching parents-to-be how to cope with labor and birth, which are over swiftly, and more time on parenting skills that will have repercussions for a lifetime. We need to teach the basics of how children form a relationship and how to make that relationship as rewarding as possible for the child and for the parents.” As a society, Perry said “we could be doing more to support parents and support children. It takes a village to bring up a child and if such communities are less common we need to strengthen other networks to take their place to end the isolation that can end in tragedy.”

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  • Stuart Walker’s horrific death
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