Kill the Violence
No parent in their right mind would ever even dream of handing their child a loaded gun. The thought alone is ludicrous.
However, many parents unknowingly do just that. 72% of American households play video games (Industry Facts 1); games that often simulate killing. By allowing their children to play violent video games, parents are virtually teaching their children how to kill. While parents may not be handing their child a gun, handing them a controller can be just as dangerous. Video games cause increased aggression, desensitization, fear, and even changes in the brain.
Violent video games have become hazardous to children’s health as well as our society as a whole and they must be stopped. The effect of media violence on children has been a hotly debated topic for more than a decade. The Entertainment Software Association and numerous organizations like it, believe that the countless studies done on the effect of media violence on children have come up inconclusive or with a lack of concrete evidence (Industry Facts 1). Yet, it becomes difficult to trust this information when it comes from organizations that profit from the 25 billion dollar video game industry. The reality of the situation is violence is a learned behavior (Grossman and DeGaetano 186). Children learn social behaviors by observing and repeating interactions, whether they are real or fictional (Anderson, Gentile, and Saleem 11).
Dave Grossman, coauthor of Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill says that “In first grade, I was a member of a four-kid gang that went around imitating TV westerns. We’d disrupt class to play out scenes, picking up chairs and hitting people over the head with them-except, unlike on TV, the chairs didn’t break, the kids did” (15).Video games teach young children that aggressive behavior is a natural and acceptable form of human interaction (Grossman and DeGaetano 147). In fact video games teach children how to kill. In the 90’s a student from Paducah, Kentucky who had never shot a real gun before, fired eight shots into a student prayer group. He hit eight different people; successfully killed three and permanently paralyzed one.
While the average, well trained law officer hits one in five shots (Grossman and DeGaetano 106-107) Video game and TV violence is an undeniable part of children’s lives which teaches them to imitate behaviors. Yet, that’s not all it does. Violent video games also cause increased aggressive behavior in children. Anderson, Gentile, and Saleem explain a newer theory called the General Aggression Model in which it is shown that continuous exposure to violent acts results in desensitization and increased aggressive behavior (13). In other words, children who witness constant fictional violent acts are less disturbed by real life violence. Furthermore, when in an argument, children who play violent video games are faster to respond with violent behavior.
In an experiment documented by Anderson, Bushman, and Carnagey, increased exposure to violent imagery was proven to decrease participant’s empathy and likelihood to help violent crime victims (491). The effects of violent imagery on children are best summarized in the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput: The reasonable person understands that what we eat, drink, and breathe will make us healthy or sick. In like manner, what we hear and what we see lifts us up — or drags us down. It forms us inside. Pornography degrades women.
It also coarsens men. I don’t need to prove that because we all know it. It’s common sense . . . The roots of violence in our culture are much more complicated than just bad rock lyrics or brutal screenplays .
. . But common sense tells us that the violence of our music, our video games, our films, and our television has to go somewhere, and it goes straight into the hearts of our children to bear fruit in ways we can’t imagine — until something like [Columbine] happens. (1) Violent video games not only cause desensitization, but remain in children’s minds and can have long lasting effects. Video games continue to cause issues beyond aggressive behavior. Despite skepticism, video games have been known to be addictive.
With constant exposure to violent video games, the brain can become trained to the need for violence for entertainment (Grossman and DeGaetano 134). In his book Unplugged, Ryan Van Cleave shares his personal experience of video game addiction. Ryan talks about his time in college when life became difficult and how he would turn to video games to forget the pain (Van Cleave 25-61). Ryan says the moment when he truly realized he was addicted was after a suicide attempt when he discovered “the decision not to jump had nothing to do with family, financials, or revenge. It was [World of] Warcraft” (Van Cleave 6).
He describes it as “when I realized I was already dead” (Van Cleave 6). Some parents argue in the defense of video games saying that they promote togetherness (Industry Facts 1).However, Ryan talks about the numerous accounts he had for online gaming and how they caused him to lie and pull away from his wife (Van Cleave 152-161). This addictive nature of video games can trap individuals in the never ending cycle of violence and cause further desensitization and aggression. Violent video games have even deeper consequences than the obvious desensitization.
Inappropriate forms of stimulus such as video games can cause damage to the prefrontal cortex in children. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that keeps the individual from acting on impulse (Grossman and DeGaetano 50). In addition, violent video games keep the brain’s fight or flight mechanism on high alert resulting in overstimulation (Grossman and Degaetano 51). As a result, when the individual is truly in danger, the brain is slow to react and recognize the emergency. If brain damage is not enough to convince parents of the danger of video games, consider the observations of Joanne Cantor on numerous children who were hospitalized for several weeks due to fear caused by movies such as the Exorcist (Grossman and DeGaetano 28). Children were hospitalized purely due to fear! One can only imagine the fear that violent video games can cause in children.
Media violence’s effect on children has been discussed countless times over the past few years. However, whenever a solution is proposed it is continually brought back to the censorship debate. How much does the government really have the right to censor? Earlier this summer the Supreme Court overturned a California law that prohibited selling violent video games to children on the grounds that it was unconstitutional and violated the first amendment (Vicini 1). The definition of violent was said to be too vague (Chaput 1). More than that, the Supreme Court ruled that banning video games violated the right to free speech.
People wondered what the government would shut down next if allowed to censor. Contrary to popular belief, this is not an ordinary censorship debate. Video games are not the same as movies or television. Video games simulate killing and allow the player to take an active role in the action as opposed to passively watching a movie (Chaput 1). David Grossman even referred to video games as “murder simulators” (Chaput 1).
How long will we continue to corrupt our children simply because we are afraid of our own government? The fact that violent video games are hurting our children is undeniable, but the question remains what should we do about it? One option is to get rid of video games entirely or at the very least restrict violent ones. Unfortunately, this has been attempted before such as in California earlier this year and it is considered a violation of the 1st Amendment. Another course of action is to increase the ratings of games and enforce them more. Sadly this would once again ignite the censorship debate that is nearly impossible to win. The remaining solution is to censor ourselves. Follow the ratings.
If a video game is rated M for mature content, there is a reason. Find out what the reason is. Review a game before letting the kids play it, that way there are no surprises. Moreover, pay attention to what the kids are playing and when necessary, turn it off. Furthermore, talk to your children. Explain to your kids why violence is bad and even though it may be in a game, that doesn’t mean it is okay in real life.
Ask them how they feel about the violence in their games and overall, monitor them closely. No matter how much the government does or does not censor, in the end the power lies with the parents and children to make the right decision. Countless studies have been done to prove the negative effects of violent video games on children. The facts have been laid out for you and it is clear that violent video games are harming our children. It’s time to face the music.
The information is out there. Now the power lies in your hands to make the right choice. So, what will you do? Turn off your controllers. Save the children. Kill The Violence. Works Cited Carnagey, Nicholas L, Craig A Anderson, and Brad J Bushman.
“The Effect of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-Life Violence.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 43 (2007): 489-496. PDF file. Chaput, Charles J. “Violent Video Games and the Rights of Parents.” First Things 1 July 2011: 1.
First Things. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. DeGaetano, Gloria, Lt.
Col. Dave Grossman. Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill: A Call To Action Against TV, Movie ; Video Game Violence. New York, New York: Crown Archetype, 2009. Print. Entertainment Software Association.
“Industry Facts.” The Entertainment Software Association. N.p., 2011. Web.
21 Nov. 2011. Gentile, Douglas A, Muniba Saleem, and Craig A Anderson. “Public Policy and the Effects of Media Violence on Children.” 30 Oct. 2007.
PDF file. Van Cleave, Ryan G. Unplugged. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Inc., 2010. Print.
Vicini, James. “High court strikes down California video game ban.” MSNBC. MSNBC, 27 June 2011. Web. 21 Nov.