America reacted with shock and horror to the murders of 20 young children and six educators two weeks ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Then, in the days that followed, many Americans tuned in to "Criminal Minds" and "Homeland," bought tickets to watch "Jack Reacher" and "Django Unchained" and settled in front of their game systems to play "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" and "Halo 4."
Along with gun control, school security and mental health care, the discussion in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass shooting has included the role of violence in entertainment media. Many area residents agree those images could have some influence on real-life acts of violence, and a number believe the responsibility for properly dealing with that content lies with parents and caregivers rather than those who produce it.
Illustration by ROBB DeCAMP Special to the Times
"I really don't remember seeing all the violence on TV when I was a kid as much as I do now," said Stacia Dyar, 24, of Marietta.
Dyar said she's careful about what her 4-year-old son, who is curious about fighting and guns, watches.
"I try not to let him watch anything that has too much action in it, because he'll want to try and do it," she said.
Top-grossing movies of 2012
1. "Marvel's The Avengers"- $623.4 million (PG-13)
2. "The Dark Knight Rises" - $448.1 million (PG-13)
3. "The Hunger Games" - $408 million (PG-13)
4. "Skyfall" - $285 million (PG-13)
5. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II" - $283.7 million (PG-13)
6. "The Amazing Spider-Man" - $262 million (PG-13)
7. "Brave" - $237.2 million (PG)
8. "Ted" - $218.7 million (R)
9. "Madagascar 3" - $216.4 million (PG)
10. "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" - $214 million (PG)
Top 10 games to buy next (Dec. 8)
1. "Halo 4" (Mature)
2. "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" (M)
3. "Grand Theft Auto V" (Rating Pending)
4. "Just Dance 4" (Everyone 10+)
5. "The Last of Us" (M)
6. "Resident Evil 6" (M)
6. "Call of Duty: Black Ops" (M)
8. "Gears of War: Judgment" (M)
8. "The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct" (RP)
10. "Madden NFL 13" (E)
10. "God of War: Ascension" (RP)
Highest-rated TV shows, week of Dec. 17
1. "NCIS" (CBS)
2. "NBC Sunday Night Football" (NBC)
3. "NCIS: Los Angeles" (CBS)
4. "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick" (NBC)
5. "The Voice" - Tuesday (NBC)
6. "The Voice" (NBC)
7. "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS)
7. "Hawaii Five-0" (CBS)
7. "Mike & Molly" (CBS)
8. "The OT" (Fox)
9. "Vegas" (CBS)
10. "Football Night in America," part 3 (NBC)
Warren Township resident Kayla Chisolm, meanwhile, said her 5- and 4-year-old children watch their father play video games featuring zombies and regularly view "The Avengers," a PG-13 movie that showcases superheroes battling aliens wreaking large-scale destruction in New York City.
"It doesn't do anything to them," she said. "They know the difference between fantasy and reality."
Of course, Chisolm said she won't let her children watch just anything, especially horror violence with blood and gore.
"No 'Children of the Corn.' No Chucky," she said, referring to the villain in the "Child's Play" films.
Chisolm said the key is for parents to guide their children so they know right from wrong.
She bristled at some early suggestions that the actions of the shooter in Connecticut were driven in part by a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism that has no clear connection with violence, and an interest in violent video games. She said her brother has the same diagnosis and also frequently plays such games but is not violent.
"He knows the difference," Chisolm said.
Marietta resident George Litman, 48, writes a movie and pop culture blog called "The Great White Dope." He enjoys action and horror movies but doesn't deny a possible connection between violence on the screen and violence in the real world.
"Someone that's easily impressionable would see that and think that's the way that you get what you want in the world, is violence," he said.
Parents need to explain to their children "this is not the way of the world," Litman said. "They just use that in TV and movies for entertainment purposes."
People who watch a movie like Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" - which is rated R for, among other things "strong graphic violence throughout" - are looking for escapism, not inspiration for how to harm others, Litman said.
"It's all in how you approach it as an individual," he said. "There has to be special consideration made for people who take things too literally."
That's where family and friends come in, Litman said. And while he doesn't favor government restrictions on the content of movies, Litman said Hollywood could do more to educate potential viewers, with a more detailed rating system or perhaps clips prior to screenings that emphasize the difference between violence on screen and in reality.
Video games have long included some form of violence or another, but advances in technology have caused them to evolve from digitized monsters flattening or disappearing to realistic bodies dying in all sorts of macabre fashions. Of the 11 entries in the Nielsen's Dec. 8 "Top 10 Games to Buy Next" survey, nine involved shooting or otherwise killing people, zombies or aliens.
Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University, told the Associated Press recently about a study he conducted that indicated people who played violent video games three days in a row showed more aggressive and hostile behavior than people who weren't playing. The effect of playing such games for years is uncertain, Bushman said, because testing that "isn't practical or ethical."
Ted Miller, 54, of Moss Run, said he doesn't allow his 11-year-old son to have "war-related" video games, although he has played some at friends' houses.
"When you play a video game that has violence in it, you have no consequences," he said. "Some kids can handle it who are a little more mature, and some kids can't."
They also monitor the movies and TV shows he watches to make sure they aren't too violent. But that doesn't mean the boy is unfamiliar with guns.
"He loves hunting and he loves guns, but he's a mature individual," Miller said.
Miller thinks Hollywood could dial back the violence some but probably won't as long as people keep buying tickets.
"They're in the industry to make money, and that's what sells," he said. "If nobody's going to watch them, eventually they're going to start making (less or non-violent) movies that people watch."
Marietta resident Ron Beardsley, 53, said he doesn't want to see increased government regulations of what can be shown on TV, but he does think guidelines like rating systems are a good idea. And it might be helpful for networks to return to showing more adult content at later hours.
Still, "my wife and I have to make the final decision" on what their daughter watched when she was younger, Beardsley said.
"We usually tried to first see what it was, if it was appropriate for her," he said. "I would hope people would take more time to see what they show on TV before they let their children watch it."
The Associated Press contributed.