In this age, radio, television, movies, videogames, cell phones, computer networks – all have assumed pivotal role in our children’s daily lives. For better or worse, the mass media enormously impacted on our kids’ values, beliefs and attitudes. These wide-ranging options also introduced new psychological threats to our children, and made it much harder to protect them.
Now, it is not just kids in bad neighbourhoods who are likely to be exposed to bad things when they go out on the street. A ‘virtual’ bad street is available right on your palms. The mobile devices are changing the way we not only communicate, but live. ‘Nomophobia’ – defined as “fear of being without your phone” is an emerging modern-era problem.
Videogame violence – a toxic, growing problem
Though factors such as, poverty, drugs etc. contribute to youth violence, studies increasingly attribute it to media, and most of all – videogames, adding that it also leads to rise in aggressive attitudes in children that has a long-lasting effect on personality, including criminal behaviour.
The current videogames are not just conditioning children to be violent and see killing as acceptable, but teaching them the mechanics of killing, as well. Why is this happening? How to confront it, not only to protect our own kids, but also to hedge the cultural impact of media violence?
Children, some as young as 10 years old, take up arms. Remember, in 1999, the two American teenagers – Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 13 people and injured 24 others with firearms, were reportedly influenced by videogames.
Is entertainment propaganda for violence?
It is hard to determine if media violence causes aggressive behaviour, or if it is just that more aggressive people seek out violent entertainment. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Though no scholarly consensus has emerged regarding whether violent media games contribute to youth violence, one can intuitively recognise that there is a definite influence violent media has on real-world aggression.
Today’s animated games are so realistic, as game-developers employ impeccable graphics to mimic perfection. A few games engage first-person perspective, making it seem the players identify with their characters of the script. Reality is so much distorted, that if you live in a fictional world, then the fictional world becomes your reality. Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
But, how could a videogame is termed violent when some players explain that it is an awesome and fun game? Is it that the players with greater exposure were already desensitised to the “violent” effects? Or, is it violent only for those coming from an earlier generation? Perhaps, “perception” could be a topic for future research.
A host of challenges
As a responsible society, where does this leave us? Of equal concern is whether we should be wary of the local news channels that are filled with murders, rapes other heinous crimes? So, what media is dangerous to whom?
Many parents question the violence shown in today’s cartoons and videogames, but many of us grew up watching Tom and Jerry and other animated favourites where violence was also a key ingredient. The loners who spend excessive amounts of time in internalising certain videos are more susceptible.
While the new forms of media and communication have incredible benefits, privacy and safety issues throw a scary stare. Unlike driving a car, which warrants minimum legal age-limit, there is no guideline for a parent to determine when a child may be ready for a smartphone.
In many videogames, violent acts are continually repeated, which increases the negative effect on children, as violent images imprint sharply in the brain. Also, when played for prolonged time, it shows other problems such as confrontation with teachers and elders, low interest in reading, writing and other hobbies, while online games endanger the players to connect with strangers.
Due to the popularity of videogames, it would be difficult to exclude them from children’s lives. Play games with them. Talk to them about what TV shows they watch and the videogames they play, and help them become smart, thoughtful human beings. Ensure there is balance, and be mindful of the content.
A basically impulsive or fearful child should refrain from playing games or watching clippings filled with horror or spine-chilling scenes. Regulate children’s exposure to media, and a raise a new generation.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)