The question of "Are computer games too violent for children?" is a conflicting and controversial one that has surrounded the computer games industry since its inception. Many psychologists and certain media outlets would have you believe this to be true. Indeed, any incident involving video games and violence is widely reported in the media and over the years there have been a number of widely publicized controversies surrounding violence and video games;
The Arcade culture in the UK in the 1980s
The Mortal Kombat games in the early 1990s
Columbine High School Shootings
Continual surrounding controversy of the Grand Theft Auto games
The video games industry continues to grow at a staggering pace each year and is now worth more than the film industry the question therefore, of "Are computer games too violent for children?" becomes more pertinent. Much research and debate has already been spent on this subject and most of it seems conflicting. There seems to be no definitive answer to the question. The report aims to look at and utilize existing research on the subject and put forward an argument for and against the question of "Are computer games to violent for schoolchildren?" In order to get a wide view of opinions the team used two different qualitative (interviewing) and quantitative (questionnaire) methods to gain insight into this subject. To gain a further insight in this subject, the team spoke to a number of organizations and individuals to garner their thoughts on this subject. In order to get a balanced view on this subject we spoke to people who would be directly or indirectly involved with this subject;
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Local police officers
Child protection workers
Employees at major computer games stores
The questionnaire was created by the team and given out to these groups and individuals in order to generate a statistical diagram showing their views on the subject.
The report will conclude with our recommendations and a conclusion to the question of "Are computer games too violent for children?"
Main Literature Review Section
"Computer games are not too violent for schoolchildren". It is commonly suggested that computer games affect children and teach them bad behaviours. According to Harvard Researchers video games do not make children more aggressive, Dr. Lawrence Kutner and Dr. Cheryl K. Olson (2004) " It's clear that the "big fears" bandied about in the press-that violent video games make children significantly more violent in the real world; that they will engage in the illegal, immoral, sexist and violent acts they see in some of these games-are not supported by the current research, at least in such a simplistic form. That should make sense to anyone who thinks about it. After all, millions of children and adults play these games, yet the world has not been reduced to chaos and anarchy." We should compare today's video games with the other media types that children are exposed to; cartoons, films, music, TV channels, news media, magazines and newspapers. It is clear that in today's society we are being presented with a plethora of information and images which are more realistic and violent. However, there does not appear to be such a strong outcry to these media types to 'protect' children as there is to video games.
There is a substantial volume of research that is presented to state that video games do have ill-affects however this research is flawed. There are a number of psychologists who use new and experimental methods that other leading psychologists disagree with. They believe that the tests performed are not scientific. An example of this contravening opinion is shown below:
Dr. Lawrence Kutner and Dr. Cheryl K. Olson (2004) ".psych professors will often ask students to play violent games for 15 or 20 minutes and then ask the student to shock or blow an air horn at someone they can't see in another room. Olsen says this type of research then gets reported as evidence where a student who blows a horn for a second longer after playing violent games is somehow more violent. She says she believes this type of behaviour does not translate into real-world violence. "
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We should question this research that is widely publicized and used to affect legal, moral and commercial targets surrounding video game violence. It can be shown that this research itself is not validated and accepted amongst the leading psychologist and practitioners and so there is not a direct yes / no answer that can be provided. There is research that indicates that video game do have a positive impact on children. Mark Griffiths (2005), professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University says that "Video gaming is safe for most players and can be useful in healthcare". In this example video games were used to distract and occupy children while they were undergoing chemotherapy. Indeed, video games are also used to directly benefit children. Due to playing computer games, children have shown improvements in the following skills;
Concentration and focus for mental development.
Eyesight, coordination and spacial skills.
Leadership, confidence and social skills.
Organisation, problem solving and decision making skills.
Outlet for creativity and imagination development
These are benefits that are not as widely acknowledged as their negative counterparts. If the benefits highlighted above and other known through scientific research were widely published then a more balanced viewpoint would be achieved.
"Computer games are too violent for schoolchildren".
There is enough physical evidence to prove that some kids who play games excessively can become addicted and take the things they do in the virtual world into the real world.
Like the famous case of the Columbine high school massacre were the supposed mastermind and leader of the attack Eric Harris was highly addicted to Doom and stormed his school with a friend Dylan Klebold killing 12 students before turning the gun on themselves or more recently
We are not saying that every school kid that plays a violent video game will storm there school, killing their fellow students, just that gaming, violent or not, can become addictive for all ages and that some kids could be vulnerable to the negative influences of playing violent video games. These type of children are called "high risk" players, these such players could be kids who are drawn to the violence in video games because of pre-existing adjustment problems and by continually playing violent video games could make the existing problems worse or create new problems.
It has been proposed that some children may be exceptionally vulnerable to negative influence from playing violent video games. This group has been called "high risk" players.3 High risk players may be individuals who are drawn to violent video games because of preexisting adjustment problems. Game-playing may then have a causal role in either perpetuating preexisting problems or in contributing to the development of new problems. For example, some children with academic problems may use video games as either an escape from schoolwork or as an area in which they can excel. Although there could be temporary benefit such as an increase in self-esteem, over the long term academic problems may worsen because of this strategy, leading to a decrease in self-esteem.
this can act as a trigger that warps there reality and if changing or enforcing existing laws can prevent another Columbine massacre then it's got to be worth it.
Robin Gurwitch, PhD, a Professor and Program Coordinator of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, say's
"the violent nature of games like "Modern Warfare 2" can have a negative effect on kids and k ids that spend a lot of time with these kinds of games do become more aggressive and are showing more aggressive behaviours,"
Gurwitch recommends parents set limits on kids who want to play violent video games. Her recommendations are to:
Check out the game and its rating before buying it
Limit the time on the game.
Don't put the game station in a child's bedroom.
Don't be afraid to say no to younger siblings.
There are no real laws forcing retailers to stop selling violent games to school kids even though in 2005 the state of California passed a law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18.
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The courts have consistently denied the legal standing of barring the sale of violent video games and the law has never took effect.
But last Tuesday the issue made its way to the Supreme Court, where it will finally be decided whether or not it should stand.
As it stands the court appears split and it may be some time before a decision is made.
"Although it does not have the legal authority to implement or enforce retailer sales policies with respect to computer and video games, the ESRB works closely with retailers and game centres to: a) provide in-store signage which explains the rating system; b) support their store policies pertaining to the sale or rental of Mature-rated games to minors; and c) help educate and train store associates and employees with regard to the rating system."
"Compare/contrast these arguments briefly".
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The Case Study Organisation with Interviews
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Conclusions and Recommendations
There are many aspects to be considered when asking the question, "Are computer games too violent for children?" We have argued both sides, for and against not only in this report but in our oral presentation. There are in fact good points to both sides of the debate detailed below.
Benefits of computer games:
Computer games are an outlet for creativity and imagination development.
Computer games can help improve eyesight, coordination and special skills.
Computer games increase concentration and focus for mental development.
Computer games are often used to help children with learning difficulties such as autistic children.
Downside of computer games:
Children can lose touch with the real world and become estranged.
Games can make children lazy and lose interest in outdoor sports and games that benefit their physical and mental health.
Children may attempt to imitate the images and actions they have witnessed in the game.
The question still remains if the games are in fact too violent for children? Yes, some of the games for sale today are quite violent and can show very disturbing and graphic images. These same games however do come with an age restriction certificate which clearly states how old a child must be to play the game. Computer games have age restrictions of 12, 15 and 18 plus years of age. The violent games like we are discussing are mostly eighteen's meaning no child is supposed to be playing them in the first place.
We all know that is sure as these games are available to buy children will find a way to obtain them. Just like adult films or alcohol which both have age certificates, both can be found in the average youngster's possession. So how can we stop children from obtaining violent computer games? The truth is we cannot. What we must do is discipline from the home.
The children playing these games are after all children. They stay with parents or some form of adult. Most consoles that play these games are electronic devices which must be run from the home, the home where children can be seen. Whether the child is playing the game at their own home or a friend's surely an adult must be present to govern what games are suitable for the child. This is mostly where the issue must be tackled. Computer consoles must not be allowed to babysit the children playing them. Parents and adults must make a conscious effort to view and control what games the children play.
This is not all that must be done. Children can also play these games out of sight of adults as now so many consoles have hand held portable versions. This is why the game retailers must make absolute sure no games are sold to youngsters. There should be stricter laws like the punishments for underage alcohol sale also attached to the sale of games to underage children.
In conclusion people are generally good or bad regardless of computer game violence and although these games might act as a trigger to spun violent behavior they are not the root cause. Children must be raised to learn right from wrong. By doing this, children when of age will be suitable minded and mature enough to handle the images and actions that can be seen in the games. They will be of age to decide for them self whether or not the game is suitable.
Computer games should not be treated any different from videos or music. Age restrictions and game descriptions are put in place to make sure the public understand what they are buying. The majority of people play these games to no ill effects. Everyone cannot be expected to suffer because of a few bad apples. The game industry should not be punished for any claims that violent actions were a result of violent video games. People must accept responsibility for their actions and stop pointing the finger to innocent parties.
So to answer the question, yes, computer games can be too violent for children but like violent films, they are not for children's eyes. Parents and game retailers have a responsibility to ensure these games do not fall into children's hands.
References and Sources
# References Source Type 1 Dr. Lawrence Kutner and Dr. Cheryl K. Olson (2004), [Online] The video games and violence Study.
http://www.grandtheftchildhood.com/GTC/Excerpts/Entries/2008/1/28_The_video_games_and_violence_Study_2.html. [Accessed: 18/11/2010]. Web page 2 Dr. Lawrence Kutner and Dr. Cheryl K. Olson (2004), [Online]
Harvard Researchers: Playing Violent Video Games Does Not Make Kids More Violent. Available at: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/253399 [Accessed: 18/11/2010]. Web page 3 Mark Griffiths (2005), [Online]
Computer games 'do have benefits'.
Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4682801.stm
[Accessed: 18/11/2010]. Web page Make sure this goes in alphabetical author order
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Are computer games too violent for schoolchildren?