Violent video games garnered attention after the massacre in Newtown, CT, raised concern that violent imagery in video games has contributed to a culture of violence. Vice President Joe Biden met with Biden asked the executives of manufacturers of violent video games. He asked executives of companies that make games such as Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat, and Assassin's Creed what they think they could do to save only one kid's life.
Although the task force which Biden heads is focusing on gun control laws, yesterday's meeting indicates that it is also examining the impact of violent video games on our culture. Although no clear link has been found between Connecticut gunman Adam Lanza's playing of violent video games and the horrific crime he committed, some lawmakers have said they want to regulate the $60 billion/year industry.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’re going to do something," said Virginia Rep. Frank R. Wolf, who supported labeling violent video games even before the Newtown massacre.
Not all agree, though. The New York Times reported that Texas Rep. Kevin Brady believes the rating system makes it easy to shield his kids from inappropriate games and the harder task is keeping violent images on television away from his children.
Like lawmakers, scientific studies of the impact of violent video games have reachd varying conclusions. Lawmakers be limited in what they can do, given that in 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court found restrictions on the sale of video games in California to be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.
Regardless of pending government regulation, parents of tweens and teens have long dealt with the issue of whether to let their children play violent video games and must continue to do so today.
“I don’t let games like Call of Duty in my house,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on MSNBC. “You cannot tell me that a kid sitting in a basement for hours playing Call of Duty and killing people over and over and over again does not desensitize that child to the real-life effects of violence.”
I may not agree with Gov. Christie on everything, but I think he makes a very valid point. Not only does it desensitize kids, but, taking it a step further, what does a child gain from playing such a game? I really don't have an answer. I cannot think of any positive that comes from such an experience.
That's not to say that I oppose video games. Not all video games are bad, and, as Tween Us has discussed, video games that involve pro-social behavior, meaning actions intended to help or benefit others, can be good for tweens. Researchers found that there are positive lessons that come from such games. Conversely, they found that violent games reinforce antisocial, negative behavior.
Even video games like Wii Sports or Just Dance, which are not pro-social but not violent, can be positive from a fitness standpoint. (Trust me, I've done Just Dance with my tween, and it's a work out!) But I have yet to find someone who will tell me what positive impact violent video games have on society, and especially on children.
Michael Rich, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Center on Media and Child Health, told the Boston Globe that sees parents who are so eager to be friends with their children that they do not set limits. He said parents do not need to wait for a scientific link to say violent video games are not permitted in their home.
"[T]ake a step back and say: ‘What do I want my kid to learn? And what do I want him or her to become? How does everything I do contribute to that outcome?’ It’s not just about sucking up to kids, it’s about helping them become the kind of adults you want them to be," Rich said.
The same Boston Globe article provides interesting information from a former video game store manager watched parents of preteen and teenage boys who clearly did not want to buy a violent game do so after a child promised to behave. The article made the point that once the parents were in the store, the purchase of the violent game was essentially a done deal.
My take away: avoid the video game store! Don't go in with your kid. Just. Don't. Go. Buy the game via Amazon - it is much easier to say "no" in the comfort of your home, your domain. Or agree to pick up a game for your kid on which you both agree, but do it solo. Also, play the games with your kids. It's the only way to know exactly what they are seeing and learning, or not, and to know if it is something with which you are comfortable.
What, if any, are the rules in your house regarding violent video games?