In recent times I have developed the habit of worrying about my children though they are yet to be born. With everything I read and everything I learn I get more concerned about how I will be able to raise children in this increasingly technological world where morals are being derailed at every turn.
Take something as simple as a video game for instance. Its seems like a great toy to buy for your child but if you do some research you may think twice before buying it. To be honest I’m not sure my children will ever own a video game…
A video game is one of the most interactive forms of media that children interact with. They transcend what television is/was able to offer by allowing children to become very involved in the action rather than just sitting and watching as it takes place.
Violence in general, and sexual violence in particular, is also a staple of the video game industry. The current trend is for players to be the bad guys, acting out criminal fantasies and earning points for attacking and killing innocent bystanders. Although these games are rated M, for mature audiences, it is common knowledge that they are popular among pre-teens and teen-aged boys and girls to a lesser extent.
For example, players in Grand Theft Auto 3 earn points by carjacking, and stealing drugs from street people and pushers. And one of the top-selling video games in the world, Grand Theft Auto, is programmed so players can beat prostitutes to death with baseball bats after having sex with them.
In Carmageddon, players are rewarded for mowing down pedestrians — sounds of cracking bones add to the realistic effect.
The first-person shooter in Duke Nukem hones his skills by using pornographic posters of women for target practice, and earns bonus points for shooting naked and bound prostitutes and strippers who beg, “Kill me.”
In the game Postal, players act out the part of the Postal Dude, who earns points by randomly shooting everyone who appears — including people walking out of church, and members of a high school band. Postal Dude is programmed to say, “Only my gun understands me.”
The level of violence in the gaming habits of young people is disturbingly high. In MNet’s 2001 study Young Canadians In A Wired World (which found that 32 per cent of kids 9 to 17 are playing video games “every day or almost every day”), 60 per cent cited action/combat as their favourite genre. Stephen Kline of Simon Fraser University reported similar findings in his 1998 study of over 600 B.C. teens. Twenty-five per cent of the teens he surveyed played between seven and 30 hours a week and when asked for their one favourite game, their choice was “overwhelmingly” in the action/adventure genre.
Countless studies have been conducted on Media violence and its influence on behaviour particularly among children. Researchers have taken a number of different approaches however most if not all have concluded that there is a correlation between the viewing or interacting with media violence and subsequent behaviour in children:
- Children who consume high levels of media violence are more likely to be aggressive in the real world and
- Children who watch high levels of media violence are at increased risk of aggressive behaviour as adults
- Research strand: Children who consume high levels of media violence are more likely to be aggressive in the real world
In 1956, researchers took to the laboratory to compare the behaviour of 24 children watching TV. Half watched a violent episode of the cartoon Woody Woodpecker, and the other 12 watched the non-violent cartoon The Little Red Hen. During play afterwards, the researchers observed that the children who watched the violent cartoon were much more likely to hit other children and break toys.
Six years later, in 1963, professors A. Badura, D. Ross and S.A. Ross studied the effect of exposure to real-world violence, television violence, and cartoon violence. They divided 100 preschool children into four groups. The first group watched a real person shout insults at an inflatable doll while hitting it with a mallet. The second group watched the incident on television. The third watched a cartoon version of the same scene, and the fourth watched nothing.
When all the children were later exposed to a frustrating situation, the first three groups responded with more aggression than the control group. The children who watched the incident on television were just as aggressive as those who had watched the real person use the mallet; and both were more aggressive than those who had only watched the cartoon.
Over the years, laboratory experiments such as these have consistently shown that exposure to violence is associated with increased heartbeat, blood pressure and respiration rate, and a greater willingness to administer electric shocks to inflict pain or punishment on others. However, this line of inquiry has been criticized because of its focus on short term results and the artificial nature of the viewing environment.
Other scientists have sought to establish a connection between media violence and aggression outside the laboratory. For example, a number of surveys indicate that children and young people who report a preference for violent entertainment also score higher on aggression indexes than those who watch less violent shows. L. Rowell Huesmann reviewed studies conducted in Australia, Finland, Poland, Israel, Netherlands and the United States. He reports, “the child most likely to be aggressive would be the one who (a) watches violent television programs most of the time, (b) believes that these shows portray life just as it is, [and] (c) identifies strongly with the aggressive characters in the shows.”
A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2003 found that nearly half (47 per cent) of parents with children between the ages of 4 and 6 report that their children have imitated aggressive behaviours from TV. However, it is interesting to note that children are more likely to mimic positive behaviours — 87 per cent of kids do so.
Recent research is exploring the effect of new media on children’s behaviour. Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman of Iowa State University reviewed dozens of studies of video gamers. In 2001, they reported that children and young people who play violent video games, even for short periods, are more likely to behave aggressively in the real world; and that both aggressive and non-aggressive children are negatively affected by playing.
In 2003, Craig Anderson and Iowa State University colleague Nicholas Carnagey and Janie Eubanks of the Texas Department of Human Services reported that violent music lyrics increased aggressive thoughts and hostile feelings among 500 college students. They concluded, “There are now good theoretical and empirical reasons to expect effects of music lyrics on aggressive behavior to be similar to the well-studied effects of exposure to TV and movie violence and the more recent research efforts on violent video games.”
I could go on with the statistics and all the scary data that has come out of the plethora of research done on this subject but with each new thing I learn I get a little more convinced that I wont want my children anywhere near a video game.