While some media outlets continue to propagate stories of youth violence, youth violence continues to decline. U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics indicates that youth violence is at a thirty year low.
Layered into media misrepresentations is the belief that violent media experiences create violent crime. Gaming systems, some featuring violent games, developed between 1993 and 2003. During this same period of widespread game sales, violent youth crime declined.
In fact, a recent statement from the Department of Justice stated that “Offending rates for 14-17 year olds have reached the lowest levels ever recorded.” These lower crime levels were evidenced during the introduction of violent themed games like Grand Theft Auto and GTA 3.
In my opinion, these games should not be sold to anyone under the age of 18 and are at the very least, in very poor taste. Over 30 major studies regarding the connection between violent video games and violence have failed to establish a cause and effect relationship between video games and violent behavior.
The Surgeon General of the United States cited 27 youth risk factors greater than violent media including academic failure, socioeconomic status, poor parent and child relationships, weak social ties and most remarkably, being male. These risk factors and others more accurately predict violent behavior than violent media.
If one were the least bit cynical, one might conclude that tackling violent media might be a good deal cheaper and less difficult than reducing nationwide poverty, poor academic performance and poor parent/child relationships.
Gaming and the evolving gaming culture in America is relatively new in the pantheon of youth experiences. Though relatively new, it is a distinct and profound part of the daily life of the majority of youth in America. Perhaps the fears expressed by adults around gaming might be similar to those expressions that were raised when rock and roll became popular. It was something that most adults had not experienced and could not connect with, just like gaming today. More than a few adults were worried that rock and roll might provoke the end of our civilization as they viewed what must seemed like hysterical teenagers.
After all, young people with their loud music and weird gyrations and long hair may have looked like the return of cave man culture. I’m afraid that Bill Haley’s rock anthem “Rock and Roll is here to stay it will never die,” was true then and so it is also true that gaming culture is here to stay and it will never die.
For its part, the gaming industry has a rating system that keeps games like Grand Theft Auto out of the hands of ten year olds. It has an “M” rating for mature and no one under 17 years of age can purchase the game. However, more than half of all games are rated “E” for everyone. Only 12-percent of games are rated “M” for mature. In my opinion, this is where responsible parenting can and must play a crucial role.
I would recommend that as parents you go through a session of Grand Theft Auto of GTA 3 and decide if these games are in line with what you want your younger teen viewing. Unless I have completely misread the current literature around gaming, many of the media claims are unfounded.
I see it as another situation, like so many others, where each parent or parents must determine what is appropriate and what is not for their child or children. That’s right, good old fashioned, common sense.
Remember, all kids count.
Reach the writer at wildblue.net