Symposium 2015: Do video games contribute to youth violence?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The first time I became aware of the issue of kids being influenced by violent video games was back in the dark ages, when Punch-Out was one of the hot arcade commodities.

First, a quick refresher for our younger audience: Arcades were places where you would go to play video games back in the time when home video games either weren’t available or had graphics quality so bad that they were headache-inducing.

The chatter back then was that somehow playing Punch-Out would make kids more likely to start punching each other in real life, which in fact they’d been doing for millennia without the benefit of electronic encouragement.  I was frequently the subject of real-life games of Punch-Out when I was in school, since we moved a lot and I was always the new kid in class, usually with a funny accent.

I could stop here and let my argument stand, but I have sons who are rapidly approaching their teens, and what I see in some video games today absolutely horrifies me.  The Grand Theft Auto series is the one most often held up as an example of what’s wrong with video game culture, and it’s done a tremendous amount to earn that censure.  In the course of a game, players are paid to kill, deliver drugs, take drugs, brutalize prostitutes and a host of other “real-life” interactions.  The makers of these games rake in money by the truckload, and occasionally release a pet survey or two showing that their games have nothing to do with real-world violence.

I simply can’t believe that.  Kids are influenced by the media they ingest.  Look at how many kids turned out in Harry Potter robes once the books and movies hit it big.  Look at how many would-be Captain Americas and Black Widows took to the streets last Halloween.  Or how about how many teens started drinking blood after watching the “Twilight” movies? (OK, maybe that last one isn’t quite right.)

Whether or not they re-enact the specific behaviors in the games, the over-the-top violence of games like Grand Theft Auto desensitize kids and teens to violence.  The games may not even make them more likely to commit violent acts, but they certainly make them less likely to react with the expected horror and disgust when seeing violence.  There is nothing good that will come from this, and the leash needs to be yanked back hard on the designers of the games.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Youths find solace in video games. When engaged in these activities, they venture in a world where they’re in control. Youths love video games and once they’ve ventured on that road, it’ll take sticks and stones to go back. There are many forms of entertainment. Some are proper while others are improper. Violent video games are as such, improper entertainment. This form of entertainment does not have a positive effect, but negative one on youths. Why? These violent games teach youths how to be violent and aggressive.

Youths have fragile and impressionable minds. They’re highly capable of soaking up whatever they say and hear. The same applies. When these young minds consume violence at an early age, they tend to display aggressive and socially reclusive tendencies. They tend to be edgy, rebellious and negative.

In many cases, youths who play video games are daring. They believe they can do anything. Especially if they’ve been playing video games strong in adult content, they use the same sort of speech with their friends and even those they’re not acquainted with. Many try to downplay the negative effects of video games but they are real and parents should make every effort to protect their children from these negative effects.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Whether video games contribute to youth violence is a question that has been debated for some time.  Doctors and other experts who analyze video game content for violence and its effects on children are divided as to the harm video games may or may not cause.  With most video games today containing certain degrees of violent content, there are concerns as to whether video games trigger violence in youth who participate in video games as a regular ongoing activity.

With the prevalence of video games and their  use as a form of entertainment and recreation since the 1970’s and 1980’s, parents and professionals have been eager to know  what can be done to avert any possible acting out or violent reactions that might occur from active participation with video games.  According to NPD Market Research, the number of children and young adults from 2-17, who regularly participate in video games for recreational purposes is currently at a 97 percent level.  With that many active gaming participants, it would be assumed that violent actions would be occurring, but according to a 2001 report from the Surgeon General, risk factors for violent actions such as school shootings are aligned more with a child’s mental stability, quality of home life and other factors, not exposure to media, whether through television, movies or video games.  The fervor over violent video games adds to the cynicism and suspicions about video game use, and authoritative adults tend to equate video games with the problems of wayward youth.

Further research indicates that video games that contain violence may be one possible risk factor of many that produce aggressive behaviors in youth.  Other factors affecting violent actions include the realities of the real world and its influence on youth and how interaction in the world can produce unnatural or anti-social behaviors.  The tendencies that parents and experts need to watch for in youth, who are consumed with violent thoughts in general and are heavily involved in video games and other types of media include:  agitation, anger, depression, heightened emotions, coldness, indifference, disagreeability, rule breaking and other neurotic tendencies.

Though the video gaming market is composed of mostly younger players, the gaming market itself has older generations of players that have become more of the center of attention for the industry, which accommodates adult tastes.  With video ratings being in the mature range, younger players are selecting games aimed at more adult content, and this content should be monitored by parents. Parents should be made aware of content and educated on what games contain and take the necessary precautions with video game selection.  Video game use requires practical precautions such as limiting playing time with video games, restricting ultra-violent video games, finding family-friendly video games, reading reviews on video games and their violent content, and discussing with children why interactive violence is not a solution to the everyday problems of the real world.  Parents are, according to the Federal Trade Commission, stepping up to the plate and have made video game purchases for their minor children or have made purchases with their children, so parents are becoming more aware of the game choices available and what is necessary to prevent overindulging in video game play.

As research continues to indicate, video game participation and play are not major factors in destructive actions and participation does not turn a video game player into a violent criminal.  Psychological experts will continue to be divided, and agree to disagree concerning the harm of video gaming, but they will continue to issue warnings and strategies to parents concerning violent content and what to do to curtail the possible negative effects of video games on youth.

Cartwright—I’m not sure that video games directly cause youth violence, but I think it may bring out aggression and exacerbate mental disorders in some people.  Youth that go and do something violent already have something wrong with them.  They don’t sit and play a video game and then decide to have a sandwich before carjacking someone.  Those who do something violent are either influenced by their environments or they have a screw loose somewhere along the line.

I think this does bring up a bigger point that is often overlooked.  How do we get help for the youth who are prone to violence due to the environments in which they are raised or due to some mental disorders.  Reducing violence in America is a tall task.  Kids these days may have to contend with gangs in some cities or broken homes and neighborhoods which can lead to violence.  Some kids just need mental counseling or meds to keep them in order.  Sadly, in the cases of mental disorder, what recourse do we as citizens have for getting someone help.  Teachers or co-workers of troubled youth may observe behaviors or sense something wrong, but they have little recourse to deal with this.  They have little options for getting someone help.

I go back to my earlier comments about letting the military run the school system.  I think we’d see a precipitous drop in youth violence if the military is running the school system and bringing respect, manners, and structure in the lives of kids and teens.

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