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When murders are being live streamed, one has to ask: has technology gone too far?

A man who identified himself as Stevie Steve in a video he broadcast of himself on Facebook.

SANTA MONICA- It was a shot heard around the world, when Steve Stephens recorded a Facebook live video of himself pulling the trigger and killing a man on Easter Sunday.  The video was on Facebook for 3 hours before it was taken down, and it had already received millions of views.

Steve Stephens has now reportedly killed himself in the midst of police chasing him, but the horrific crimes he committed and video he made lives on.  So what happens to the millions of minds who just watched that atrocity be committed?  

Unfortunately, this is not the first video of its kind, and recent years have seen a steady increase in people recording, posting, and getting millions of views as they broadcast unspeakable acts.  But what has our society done to inspire such atrocities; is it the violence in our movies and video games?  The violence that is depicted in main stream media being viewed by young minds? Or rather, is it that videos like this provide a perfect way for criminals to gain a massive audience and furthermore can desensitize their audiences and lead to others doing similar crimes? 

There has been a multitude of research exploring the effect that viewing violence has on the mind, and while there is not one definitive answer, it appears this trend results from a combination of all of these.

The American Psychological Association has found that violence in the media can have a harmful effect on the human’s brain, especially in children.  Physiologists L. Rowell Huesmann, Leonard Eron and others discovered that kids who watch hours and hours of violent television in their elementary school years often showed more aggressive behavior as they transitioned into teenagers. 

Additionally, “by observing these participants into adulthood, Huesmann and Eron found that the ones who’d watched a lot of TV violence when they were 8 years old were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults,” they said in a November 2013 article entitled Violence in the Media on their website. 

This connection between viewing violence and committing violence shows the harmful effects that a video like this can have.  A study by Indiana University’s School of Medicine went even further.  It showed that there were actually physical, visible changes in the brain that showed up on MRI brain scans following one week of violent video game play. So, if fake violence on television is enough to influence the actions of children, does exposure to real violence do worse?

After all, “other research has found that exposure to media violence can desensitize people to violence in the real world and that, for some people, watching violence in the media becomes enjoyable,” the American Psychological Association continued in their article. 

More and more studies are coming out showing the direct relationship between viewing violence, both fictitious and real, and the effect that is has on one’s brain and actions.

The video was posted on Facebook for three hours before it was taken down.

Photos courtesy of Reuters.