Fathers and mothers have always been burdened with the arduous job of protecting their children from physical harm in a world, which is growing increasingly dangerous. Now, however, we have an escalating bombardment of influences upon our children, which affect their psychological and emotional well being.
Even their play is no longer either innocent or harmless. Movies and television have become more violent and sexually promiscuous in what is shown and even advocated. This affects young minds, which spend an inordinate amount of time in front of television sets. In recent years, a new menace has arrived on the scene in terms of degenerate and mind damaging video games. The violent media verdict has been in for decades, but we are just now learning about the negative effect that certain video games have upon the emotional and psychological well being of our youngsters.
There are two studies reported in the April’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which reveal that the playing of violent video games by youngsters increase his or her aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior in lab settings and real life alike. Another study of 227 college students found that those who played more violent video games in junior high and high school engaged in more aggressive behavior and also had worse grades than others in college. Still another study of university students reveals that students who play violent video games appear to be more aggressive and violent in their own personal lives.
There are many non-violent video games which are not only fun to play, but also can even be educational. Unfortunately, more and more children are getting into the kinds that glamorize violence, brutality, and killing.
The video games have become so life like that they are basically, as one expert described them, something like “military quality murder simulators”. Studies have shown that until about the age of six, children have a difficult time in distinguishing fantasy from reality. Video games such as “Doom” and “Mortal Combat” are bloody altercations where the player can sever an opponent’s head and use it to bludgeon the victim to death.
The First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution, of course, gets in the way of doing very much about the restriction of violent video games. Tobacco companies have been criticized for targeting young smokers, but the entertainment industry also targets young players for violent games. Why is it wrong to allow the marketing of cigarettes, alcohol, and pornography to minors, yet allow the marketing of violent games to them without restriction?
Perhaps it’s time to place a media violence code on these games that will warn parents, at least, of such gory and bloody depictions of decapitations, evisceration’s, and shootings in these games. There is some reason to believe that stronger parental control would also help. A study conducted by Stanford University has shown that when parents sharply reduce their children’s exposure to violent television and video games for just five months, such measures produce a 50 percent decrease in verbal aggression and a 40 percent drop in physical aggressions.
We have learned that mere labeling of movies and records unacceptable to minors has not had much effect on keeping them out of the hands of young people. We all know that the most effective means of negating the adverse effect upon children participation is with decisive and firm parental control. Unfortunately, we are having fewer and fewer parents exercising this type of supervision. In the long run, our society will suffer greatly because of this neglect.