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Children and Video Games, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1125

Essay

Video games industry has grown significantly in the last few decades due to technological advancements which have made games increasingly life-like and have also given more creative room to the developers. Video game sector is now one of the most commercially lucrative industries and had already outgrown Hollywood by the end of the 1990s. According to a report in the late 1990s, video game industry earned $8.8 billion in the U.S. as compared to Hollywood’s $5.2 billion (Phi Delta Kappan) or nearly 70 percent more. As the industry has grown, it has also attracted greater scrutiny and criticism by both private observers and parents who blame video games for promoting aggressive behavior and violence among children. The supporters of the video game industry cite First Amendment in their defense and also allege that concerns regarding violent behavior among children due to exposure to video games are overblown. The debate will not be ending anytime soon but research studies do convince us that video games soften the psychological barriers against violence and increase the probability of aggressive behavior among children.

Most of our children are spending significant time playing video games. As of mid 2004, an average American child was spending nine hours playing video games (Herzfeld). Survey participants admitted to several hours of game playing as the example of 16 years old Alex Spicer of Orinda, California demonstrates. Alex claimed he and his friends play video games for five hours at a time on weekends. A survey by Michigan State University found that eighth-grade boys play video games 23 hours per week on the average while the corresponding number for girls is 12 hours per week (Hamilton). A study by the Media Analysis Laboratory (MAL) at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia found that eighty percent of the teens between the ages of 11 and 18 admitted to playing video games occasionally and the average time for the sample was five hours per week. The study also found that boys spent almost twice as much time as girls at six hours per week as compared to less than three hours per week for girls (Phi Delta Kappan). MAL’s finding confirms Michigan State University’s finding that boys on the average spend twice as much time as the girls. Similarly, many other studies also confirm the notion that most of our children do get some exposure to video games. A survey of 778 students in grades four through 12 by The National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) revealed that 87 percent of all students and 96 percent of the boys regularly play video games (Herzfeld). The time spent on games mean time spent on some other activities has to be reduced just as MAL discovered that 21 percent of all respondents admitted to spending less time on homework and household chores. The number was significantly higher for just the heavy players at 37 percent (Phi Delta Kappan).

Video games soften the natural psychological barriers against violent actions. Noreen Herzfeld reports that the largest video games category as well as her students’ most favorite is “first-person shooter” that have become much more explicit now due to gore, flying body parts, realistic writhing, and screams of pain. A Japanese study of fifth and sixth graders found a correlation between the amount of time spent playing and later physical aggression. Two other games found similar relation, even after controlling for innate temperament and exposure to violence in other media sources. Thus, it is not surprising that U.S. Army utilizes video games to train its soldiers because exposure to violence and death desensitizes people and power inhibitions (Herzfeld). An expert on “kill-ology”, Lt. Col. David Grossman also states that killing doesn’t come naturally and the biggest barrier to killing is psychological resistance and video games help the U.S. Army eliminate that resistance (Phi Delta Kappan).

Video game ratings are both rarely enforced by authorities and retailers as well as poorly understood by parents. Entertainment Software Rating Board does have a rating system but it is rarely enforced as NIMF survey found that 87 percent of boys in grades 4 through 12 play M-rated games even though M-rated games should not be sold to persons under 17 (Herzfeld). A study  by Federal Trade Commission in 2003 found that 69 percent of kids ages 13 to 16 were able to successfully purchase M-rated games while a local study in New York found that 16 year olds could buy M-rated gamed in about90 percent of the attempts. Some parents demand more guidance to understand the game rating systems (Hamilton). Another issue that prevents effective monitoring by parents is lack of knowledge about the games. A study published in the March 1999 issue of Youth and Society found that parents recognized only 9 out of 49 games presented to them and the number further dropped to 7 out of 49 for female parents (Phi Delta Kappan).

Video games have progressed significantly in terms of content, realism, and categories due to technological advancements but at the same time they have also raised concerns due to content that may be inappropriate for most of their audience. While some defend video games content on the basis of First Amendment, others call for stricter measures to increase accountability for video games content because they may be promoting aggressive and even violent behavior among children. We know children continue to develop their personality traits and worldview as they grow up, thus, it is reasonable to assume that any activity they spend significant time on has the potential to influence their growth as individuals. The articles do indicate that some critics argue video games increase the probability of gun violence among children which is most probably an exaggerated claim. First of all, gun violence among teens or young adults can be influenced by several factors such as exposure to violence in movies and TV shows, presence of guns at homes, family upbringing (some families religiously follow hunting culture), and influence of friends. Even if we take school and college shootouts as examples, the frequency of shootouts is extremely low as compared to the number of children who play games and these shootouts may simply be outlier events. While video games may not be primarily responsible for gun violence, their role in promoting aggressive behavior is quite probably a reality. There is a good reason why Army trains new recruits through video games. If an exposure to violence helps lower the negative perceptions towards violence, it should be true for aggressive behaviors also that are less extreme than violence in nature.

References

Hamilton, Anita. Video Vigilantes. 3 January 2005. 16 February 2013 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1013239,00.html>.

Herzfeld, Noreen. “Video shootout: the games kids play.” The Christian Century 2004.

Phi Delta Kappan. “Technology: Violence and Video Games.” October 1999: 173.

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