Real Parenting: The Truth About Violent Video Games
I’ve seen a lot of talk about violent video games in the media lately and usually I’m able to ignore it, but there are some comments that eventually send me off the deep end because of the ignorance and stupidity involved. For example, Ralph Nader recently called video games, “electronic child molesters.” This is obviously an exaggerated view-point hyped up for the benefit of the media, but it begs the question: “Is there really any truth to the idea that violent video games can cause an individual to exhibit violent behavior?”
It’s not like this question hasn’t been asked before, and if there was a clear-cut answer on this issue, people wouldn’t still be debating it. I know some of you hate “gray” responses to “black and white” questions, but that’s exactly the type of answer that is called for here. What is the real answer to the sixty-four thousand dollar question: “Can violent video games drive a person to be violent?” It honestly depends on the individual in question.
We, as human beings, are a pretty diverse bunch. It’s even fair to say that each of us are unique in our own, special way, agreed? We each have our own way of looking at things. We each have our own unique behaviors. We each have opinions and viewpoints that may or may not mesh well with others. We each have a unique body chemistry that may affect the kinds of medication we take. You see? Special. Let’s all hold hands and prance around the large purple dinosaur.
With that said, there is no definite way to measure how a violent video game will affect an individual. Some people can look at a violent video game and remember that it’s just a game. Some people can play a violent video game and turn it off when they begin to feel frustrated and too absorbed. Some people have that moral distinction and recognize that shooting a pixelated AK-47 is different than shooting a real AK-47. With all of that said, which group of people are most likely not mature enough to separate fiction from reality? That’s right, kids.
Some of you may have scoffed at the ESRB rating system that came into play in the mid-nineties, but I for one wholeheartedly agree with it. I’ve come to realize, as a parent, that kids shouldn’t be playing violent video games period. While we can’t tell a misguided, immature adult not to play a violent video game, we CAN tell our children not to. As a parent, it’s my job to stay informed as to what my children are getting involved in, and this includes the realm of video games. It helps to be a gamer dad like myself, but all parents should be making the effort to control what sort of games their children are playing…hence, why I like the ESRB rating system. Even the most technologically video game ignorant parent can read the ESRB rating on the box at the store and recognize that “violence” or “sexual themes” is usually a sign that the game isn’t child appropriate.
To switch gears for a minute, I’d like to point out that shootings and violence occurred in humanity’s past well before video games were invented. While video games might heighten one’s adrenaline level and make them more likely to lose control, the same could be said for watching a violent movie or watching violent sports. Were video games around during the holy wars? Did Jack the Ripper play too much Call of Duty before going off on a tangent? How many YouTube videos exist where kids do stupid wrestling stunts and end up getting severely injured? I suppose you’re going to tell me that it wasn’t because they watched wrestling on television, but it was because they played too much Pro Wrestling on the NES? Please. It would be ignorant to claim that violent video games were the sole cause of school shootings or random acts of violence. “Monkey see, monkey do” extends beyond the controller, folks.
Then there’s the subject of moderation. “Dad’s Gaming Addiction” is a name I came up with intended as a joke, but it hits home more than I like to admit. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in my work that I forget that this whole website was created as a hobby…as something I wanted to accomplish before I passed on. By the same token, video games are not the only hobby in which people can go overboard. Reading, sports, partying, drinking, working out…all of these things can be harmful to an individual who doesn’t exercise moderation. If you don’t believe me, ask ANY sports fan who visits an opposing team’s stadium. Ask them to recount the insults and personal attacks made against them over a “game” that they weren’t even playing in directly.
So what does this all boil down to? Proper parenting. Parents need to stay informed of their child’s activities and guide them appropriately. While we can’t predict the behavior of an adult who hasn’t been educated on morality, we can make sure that we instill said morals into our own kids. As human beings, we’re far from perfect, and anyone that claims to be so is deluding themselves. If parents everywhere make a sincere effort however in educating their kids on morality, manners, and other important life values, it can help to ensure that mankind’s next generation will become mature enough to recognize fantasy from reality.
We gamers would be foolish to believe that violent video games couldn’t affect us, and you media folk and politicians would be foolish to think that video games are the sole reason for today’s senseless violence. As individuals, we are responsible for our own actions. Putting the blame on video games alone would not only be convenient, but allow you to cover up the fact that we, as human beings, have a lot of growing to do. After all, it’s a lot easier to point fingers as opposed to looking in the mirror.
Bottom line? If you haven’t taken an interest in what your kids are doing, be responsible and start today. Children, especially the younger ones, look to YOU (the parent) for guidance. Don’t let them down.