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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Video games not to blame for childhood behavioral issues

    “Police: 8-year-old shoots, kills elderly caregiver after playing video game,” read the CNN headline on Aug. 26. The headline, blatantly designed to increase web traffic, was quickly disseminated throughout the Internet, sparking the kind of misguided dichotomous debate usually reserved for sessions of Congress.

    What needs to be recognized is the reality that violent media can adversely affect youth behavior, but that the content creators aren’t to blame for these tragedies.

    As an avid video game player myself, I used to find myself entrenched among the, “I play violent video games and I’ve never killed anyone,” crowd. I had grown frustrated that the only time the media treats video games seriously is in relation to a violent tragedy and that video games are otherwise dismissed as juvenile entertainment.

    The opposing view that video games are breeding a generation of violent criminals reflects the public’s desire to ascribe simple answers to complicated social problems.

    UA Communication Professor and Dean Emeritus Ed Donnerstein, a renowned researcher on the behavioral effects of exposure to violence in media, said the majority consensus between academic and health professionals is that exposure to violent media has a statistically significant effect on real-world aggression.

    “We need to think of aggression just like any other health issue. When we think of heart disease, we acknowledge that there are many factors which can contribute,” he added.

    So while it is fair to suggest that an 8-year-old boy, who may be unable to properly distinguish between real world and virtual violence, could be adversely affected by playing “Grand Theft Auto IV,” the media has ignored the much more obvious risk factors present.

    “It is both common sense and empirical fact that no single risk factor causes a child or adolescent to act aggressively. Instead, the accumulation of risk factors contributes to such behavior,” Donnerstein said.

    Factors like why there was a loaded gun in the house that a child could access and where were the boy’s parents? The same parents, who thought it would be acceptable to let their son play a video game that is intended for players aged 17 and up and named after a felony, are more to blame than the video game makers.

    Since the Federal Trade Commission began monitoring the marketing of violent entertainment products in 2000, the music, movie and video game industries have implemented stricter controls to limit youth exposure to inappropriate content.

    According to the latest FTC “Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children” report, the video game industry was the most successful at adhering to marketing restrictions and punishing violators.

    The systems aren’t perfect — the Internet remains impossible to regulate -— but they reflect a sincerity on the part of the gaming industry to limit youth exposure to violent material. At the end of the day, it is the role of the primary caregiver to take care of their child, not the video game industry.

    Aside from being common sense, an article in the Journal of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice titled, “Why is ‘Bad’ Parenting Criminogenic?”, concluded that low levels of parental monitoring and care led to increased aggressive behavior and low levels of self-control in children.

    The easiest way to prevent youth exposure to violent material is for parents to familiarize themselves with content rating systems and parental controls, which are extensive across platforms.

    Instead of sensationalizing the real issue of how virtual violence affects actual behavior, the media should address the root of the issue: poor parenting.

    Max Weintraub is a senior studying creative writing and Italian studies. Follow him on

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