QUESTION: Do M-rated games – violent games – cause harm in children?
There are studies that indicate video games can temporarily raise the aggression level in children and that soon after playing these games or watching footage, the kids imitate what they’ve seen.
Here’s the problem: the same studies prove the same thing about Baseball and Prime Time TV. Other problems exist: These studies tend to involve strangers herding a group of kids who don’t know each other into a room that feels clinical. Violent and non-violent toys are at hand. That way, if they’ve seen a scene showing a sword, for example, the plastic sword is the most popular toy afterward.
Also, psychologically speaking, kids are well known to “play” what scares them. It’s how a child conquers fear – deals with powerlessness. I can imagine a disturbed individual being inspired by a game – but then again, some of most infamous killers were inspired by innocuous things. Mark David Chapman killed Lennon because of Catcher in the Rye and Hinkley shot Reagan because he didn’t understand Taxi Driver at all. Parents should be careful and try and avoid the most violent, most antisocial games . . . but blaming gaming for violence is essentially deferring blame from what might be the real causes of these kinds of problems. Depression, abuse, suicidal thoughts, unhappiness, despair. What about things like Columbine and other horrors? I ask you, given that the statistics say 9 out of 10 kids play video games, if they cause violence, doesn’t it stand to reason that violent crime among juveniles should be much higher?
When the mainstream media reports that a child is blaming a game for something terrible he/she did I immediately see a clever child trying to avoid responsibility. When a lawsuit is brought against a game company for what happened in Paducah Kentucky, I see lawyers acting as opportunists at the expense of the victims and the families of the killers.
When something truly horrible happens, we try and find a reason. If we can’t imagine one, traditionally, the arts were blamed. Seriously, this all goes back to Aristotle and Plato. Plato believed that drama “incited the youth to violence”, Aristotle believed that drama “acted as catharsis (purged violent thoughts).” It’s equally unproven, but could it be that violent media is a way to deal with fears and remove violence from a person’s soul? Real violence I mean? Something to think about.
None of that means that I think kids SHOULD be exposed to violent games. All I ask is that parents do so knowing what they’re doing, paying attention to the kid and their reactions, and remaining involved.
I think the best reason to avoid Mature games for teens and kids is simple: there are plenty of awesome E, E-10+, and T-Teen games to chose from. Why not stick to those a while? The gory stuff can wait.
Grand Theft Auto IV: Picture courtesy of Rockstar Entertainment