A problem challenging the world today is the scientific linkage to video games and violence in today’s youth. As the mother of a pre-teen boy I chose to investigate the surrounding evidence to educate myself and my peers on this seemingly growing problem which I believe connects violent game play with youth aggression. I hope to learn whether or not the games put out on today’s market need to be removed from the shelves and furthermore, I would like to know if they are teaching the children the wrong things and corrupting their minds at early ages.
After review of the publication, Game On, a Harvard Health Letter, I discovered that the social and cultural ramifications of video games are of high debate upon many parents and adults. Games are played by people of all ages and sexes but the vast majority of “gamers” are teenage boys. This is worry some considering they are attracted to action games with bloodshed, violence and explicit content. In Grand Theft Auto, a best seller, the players sell drugs on the streets while shooting at gangs and buying prostitutes, what we in America consider violent behavior.
Thirty years of research prove that media violence promotes aggressive behavior in young people however, due to the amount of additional underlying factors which can be ruled in such as substance abuse, cultural beliefs, abusive parents and innate personalities, it is very hard to establish a direct connection between the violence stemming from these games and other things. Through research of brain scans they have proven that thoughts of aggression and violent shooter games will activate the brain in a similar way however, directly showing a link to the games and violence in the real world has not yet occurred.
Although some claim that games have real benefits it seems they are more so to promote aggressive behavior. With more and more people becoming addicted to the games, game “detox” has erupted to help the one in twelve young people affected by the addiction. Other health problems such as arm and hand strains and “Playatation thumb”, “Nintendotitis”, fatigue, headaches and lack of sleep are all results of playing video games.
Parents need to know and understand their children, use rating systems and control settings on game consoles, keep gaming consoles out of bedrooms and most importantly offer alternatives such as board games or exercising to their children. The author states gaming does have educational uses with games such as Rise of Nations and Sim City and children with diabetes have been using the game Packy and Marlow to even understand there disease. What I have found in my research is that the statistics and facts are the same, however, the results are interpreted differently depending on what scientist or individual reviewed the information.
I have noticed that the research is implemented by some groups in a bias way to fit the needs of the point they are trying to prove as in the article, Caution: Children at Play- The Truth About Violent Youth and Video Games by Duke Ferris who works for Game Revolution states, “There is no epidemic of youth violence in America”. Mr. Ferris goes on to say that all the talk of violence in video games is a lie manufactured by the media and that kids are killing each other less these days than in earlier years.
With violent crime at a thirty year low his theories suggest that the most non-violent kids ever stemmed from the PlayStation Era. Mr. Ferris furthermore explains that aggressive people are attracted to violent games and that blaming violent games for the actions would be like blaming the opera for making people rich. He believes the media points out an X-Box every time one is within fifty yards of a crime scene. On the contrary, he does agree that Grand Theft Auto is in fact an adult game and should not be played by twelve year olds, hence the “M” rating for mature audiences meaning you must be seventeen years old to purchase it.
He states 54% of games are rated “E” for everyone unlike Grand Theft Auto, 33% are rated “T” for teen and only a mere 12% of games are made and labeled as “M”, mature. Duke Ferris claims “The most peaceful generation of Americans in recorded history is being shoved through metal detectors, having their civil rights violated on a daily basis, are the victims of unreasonable search and seizure, and are treated with constant suspicion”, “All because of a media lie”. He believes all of this harsh treatment is the real behind the scenes cause of violence in today’s youth.
In the article, Can A Video Game Lead To Murder, the author Rebecca Leung is beside herself that anyone would even begin to purchase a game where you can decapitate officers of the law, killing them like a sniper, and massacring them with chainsaws while setting them on fire. Yet in 2009 Grand Theft Auto alone sold 35 million copies with sales of $2 billion and counting. She refers to the civil and criminal cases of eighteen year old Devin Moore from Fayette, Alabama. He stole a car and was apprehended by police. Devin had no prior criminal background history and was cooperative at the time of his arrest where he was taken nto the Fayette Police Station. While in custody he executed two police officers and a 911 dispatcher with fatal shots to the head and fled in a stolen police cruiser. This horrific act took Devin only one minute to complete. Why did he do this? He did this because he had played the game Grand Theft Auto day in and day out for months. In doing this, the game worked as a murder simulator and trained him thoroughly to make a split second decision and execute the officers, shooting them with their own gun in the head and fleeing in a cop car, exactly as the game trained him to do.
Devin told police, “Life is a video game; everybody’s got to die sometime”. Ironically in Grand Theft Auto, as stated by Leung, “in one scenario a player can enter a police precinct, steal a uniform, free a convict from jail, escape by shooting police and flee in a squad car”. The National Institute of Health recently researched the brain to find that the teenage brain is not fully developed, especially the impulse control center which is the part that allows us to think ahead and consider consequences and control urges, otherwise known as the prefrontal cortex, is not completed until the early twenties in most youth.
David Walsh, a child psychologist who authored the study states that “A young man with a developing brain, already angry, spends hours, hours, and hours rehearsing violent acts, and then, he is put in this situation of emotional stress, there’s a likelihood that he will literally go to that familiar pattern that’s been wired repeatedly, perhaps thousands and thousands of times”. Walsh agrees that every kid that plays a violent video game doesn’t turn to violence, however, certain risk factors are concerning and can certainly promote a tragic outcome.
According to the Publication, Is Exposure to Media Violence a Public-Health Risk by an anonymous author, upon the pending release of video games such as Manhunt2 and Grand Theft Auto IV, society raised concerns prompting questions of the Byron Report released by the UK Government pertaining to the safety and wellbeing of children exposed to internet and video games containing violent and harmful and inappropriate behavior. It is questionable to weather killings and violence in real life are the products of these games.
The Byron Report states that video games and the internet are educational; however dangers of internet extreme violence in games and internet bullying are of concern. Many report recommendations such as parental controls, game ratings and restrictions on content already exist. Even so, how much of a public health risk does exposure to violence present? Studies show that children with behavioral and mental health problems, depression, and who are exposed to violence in the real world are high risk groups when researching this and show possible abnormalities in behavior.
Further research needs to be done to examine these high risk groups and the distinct impact violence media has on them. To do so more information would be needed such as exactly what children are playing these games and weather they are playing in groups or individually. The studies of ethnicity and minorities are important as well as research of juvenile offenders. Once this research is complete we can begin to compile accurate results on the effects of media violence and our children.
At that time we can take the appropriate steps to lower these risks. Dr. Phil, of course, has volunteered his expertise on this subject as well, through the article Children and Violent Video Games. He believes with the increasing number of kids playing violent video and computer games, especially the top sellers which are ultra-violent, that attention needs to be focused on this matter and parents need to get involved.
With the average boy playing thirteen hours a week and with girls following slightly behind at five hours a week, and with a majority of these games including violent incidents that in real life would result in serious injuries or death, something needs to be done. These kids are not learning moral consequences. Dr. Phil says, “If you shoot somebody in one of these games, you don’t go to jail, you don’t get penalized in some way- you get extra points! Playing these games creates less caring, less helpful children when in reality what they should be learning is healthy ways to deal with people and resolve their conflicts peacefully. Not only does this effect young children but teenagers are very impressionable just when teenagers are wiring the circuits for responsibility, self-control and growing into early adult like relationships, violent games step right in an activate their anger center and damper the brains conscience.
These kids are spending time with violent simulators, that brutality, lionize violence, glorify gang culture and trivialize violence toward women. Parents can minimize potential harm by limiting the types of games their children play. Discuss the inappropriateness of these games with your children and advise them that the games show inappropriate violent solutions to real world conflicts. Parents need to find alternative activities to do with their children such as going for a walk or playing a board game.
Know your children and know what they are playing not just at your house but at other people’s houses as well. Talk to other parents about what games you do not want your children playing. As parents you should rent the games yourself and play them prior to purchasing them for your children therefore you will know exactly what to expect from them. I believe there is a gigantic gap between the public’s perception of violent video games and what the research actually shows.
I don’t think any child or teenager should be exposed to any and kind of murder simulator, especially one in which trains children to attack people they should respect such as police officers and authorative figures. Furthermore, nothing positive can come from exposing these children to repetitive routine violent crimes. At risk youth, the ones in foster homes, and the kids who have grown up in aggressive homes, which are the small percentage that are at risk anyway will have an easier time getting their hands on these games no matter what their age is and appreciate to the points and gratification they get from excelling in these games.
I understand the majority of kids who play video games do not commit anti-social acts of violence; however with today’s youth in mind is it really worth taking the chance? With so many educational and sport games on the market today why is there a need to risk exposing our children who are our countries future to such violence. In conclusion, I can say that I learned a lot in my research, some of which surprised me and some didn’t. I was shocked to find out that crime has fallen with American youth in today’s society.
I also think it is absurd how the game companies try to refabricate the evidence and statistics to support the claims they are trying to prove. With this in mind, I have the knowledge that young offenders who have committed school shootings and cop killings in America have also been game players. With this knowledge taken into consideration I am able to make an educated decision that Grand Theft Auto, Man Hunt or any other games of their kind will not be found in my household. All in all its desensitizing our youth and training them to kill and nothing good can ever come from that.
References Children And Violent Video Games Received from URL http://drphil. com Ferris, D (2004, July 01) CAUTION: Chldren at Play – The Truth About Violent Video Games, Received from URL http://gamerevolution. com/ Game On. (2009 October 01) Harvard Health Letter Received from URL https://ic. galegroup. com Is Exposure To Media Violence A Public Health Risk? (2008 April 05) Received from URL http://search. proquest. com Leung, R. (2009, February 11) Can A Video Game Lead To Murder? CBS News, Received from URL http://cbsnews. com/