This is a Health & Fitness column by Bob Condor in the Seattle PI: Living Well: Violent video games just can’t be good for kids
Mostly I agree with him, and with the research. But then, I have never enjoyed or played violent video games, for the same reasons that I don’t watch splatter films: I find them unpleasant, distasteful and disturbing – disburbing mainly because I can’t help but think about all the people who DO watch or play them, and wonder why, and what thoughts and feelings are in their heads around them. Am I going to get flame comments for posting this on my blog about games? From angry people who like to play violent games? 😀 Note, I’m not campaigning for banning them or censoring them. Criticizing, studying, researching, educating and offering good alternatives all sound good to me, though.
Here are highlights from the article:
“There really isn’t any room for doubt,” said Anderson, chairman of the psychology department at Iowa State University. “Aggressive game playing leads to aggressive behavior. The naysayers don’t have a leg to stand on.”
a study presented at last week’s Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago — the heartland again — supports parental instinct about freezing the joysticks. Indiana University physicians found that adolescents who play violent video games may exhibit “lingering effects on brain function.” The researchers found the teen video gamers experienced greater emotional arousal and reduced self-control, focus and attention.
“Our study suggests that playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects on brain function than playing a non-violent — but exciting — game,” said Dr. Vincent Mathews, professor of radiology at Indiana’s School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
Mathews and colleagues assigned 44 teens to either play a violent video game for 30 minutes or a non-violent game. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging and found in players of the violent game less brain activity in the prefrontal region where self-control originates and more activity in the amygdale region, the brain’s emotional-arousal center. Mathews said he hopes to conduct additional research to measure long-term differences, while the naysayers will say, hey, it’s just a short-term deal.
55 percent of kids say they sometimes try to stop playing video games so much. Think about that for a moment. The children themselves know they are overdoing it. Another finding is that kids who have video game access in their bedrooms play at least five hours more each week than the players using a family room or common area in the home.The parent-related answers are even more enlightening. While about two-thirds of parents say they have family rules about how much and when video games can be played, only about a third of the kids reported the same. Half of the children surveyed said their parents never discuss video gaming with them. Three of every four parents say they “always” help decide what video games their children may buy or rent, yet, you guessed it, only 30 percent of the kids say that is the case.
OK, there’s more in this something’s-got-to-give scenario. Parents report their kids average about five hours of video-game playing each week. Boys say it’s more like 13 hours while girls say six.
BTW, Americans overall watch more hours of TV per week than any of those numbers – 14 hours per week. In defense of games: TV and video should be getting us much attention on these points as games are, if not more. And that’s without considering other issues TV offers which have not yet made it as far into game experiences. Yet. Like sexual content, social stereotyping, advertising, junk food and drink, selling products to kids, etc…
All that said, though, it probably ought to give us pause that, according to the statistics, parent’s and children’s perceptions of their family realities are so different.
If you want to see specifics from those criticizing violent games, here’s the list from the Parent Alert List of the National Institute on Media and Family, of games with too much violence for kids and teens. I’ve literally never played or seen any of them, so won’t say anything about them myself:
The Parent Alert list (worst is first) includes some familiar names amid the high-tech violence: “Gangs of London,” “The Sopranos,” “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Mortal Kombat: Unchained,” “Scarface: The World Is Yours,” “The Godfather: Mob Wars,” “Saints Row,” “Dead Rising” and “Just Cause.” All games are rated “M” for mature audiences.
So, what do you think about violent games? I’d particularly like to hear from people who are into them, of course. And what about the rest of media that bombards kids and teens?