There's been increased debate about video game violence ever since three months ago, when the US Supreme Court ruled to lift the California state restriction of the sale of violent video games to minors. The law found that restricting young children from purchasing games rated M (Mature) or A (Adult, or, pornographic) was unconstitutional. This opens up a world of possibility for young gamers, and a boat-load of problems for concerned parents and educators. The problem of video game violence isn't new, the violence is just worse and more realistic than it's ever been. Games are becoming darker, scarier, riskier, more cutting edge – and despite an enforced ratings system, there are very few restrictions on who can play. Parents are left to decipher what is acceptable, what isn't, and what needs careful evaluation.
In our family, we're met with loads of nay-sayers when we express our 'Absolutely No Video Games” stance. I've heard everything from, “You're depriving your children of a valuable educational experience” to “... you know, when you're kids leave your house, they'll become gaming addicts due to the rules you enforced when they were young.” Our family believes video game violence can be detrimental to a child's well-being. We've seen lives torn apart due to the onslaught of spiritual and emotional turmoil brought on by Video Game Addiction and the slow moral rot within the gaming world. Innocent games quickly lead to darker, more violent ones - simple play leads to addiction - and the doors start flying open. Why even knock?
Five BIG Problems with Violent Video Games:
1. The violence in video games breeds violence in real life. The US Army uses video games like Halo, and Full Spectrum Warrior to train their troops to kill. Their trailers (barracks) are filled with violent games, used not for entertainment but as intentional desensitization tools. This is powerful stuff, Moms. Study after study has shown that kids who play violent video games are affected physically, psychologically, and emotionally in profoundly dark ways. They are more likely to be angry, to bully, and to lash out at their parents, siblings, and peers. They have higher rates of suicide and depression too.
2. The majority of parents are clueless about what their children are REALLY playing. Many studies have shown video game companies actively promote M and A rated video games (very high in sexuality and graphic language, content, and violence) to young children. In many studies done by retailers and through secret shoppers, countless children easily purchased games rated both M and A, without so much as a blink. (Unlike California, in Canada,and in various other States, it is still illegal for kids to purchase and rent M and A games, though enforcement is relaxed). Many parents surveyed have very little knowledge of the content in the games their children are playing. Let me stress – the majority of video games that boys (especially) want to play are dark and violent. Video games are so often hidden away where kids play alone or with friends - in bedrooms, basements, and even hand-held.
3. Video games routinely include the massive use of gender stereotyping and exude a general disrespect and gross exploitation of girls and women. Popular games mostly show women as sex objects. In fact, the popular game Grand Theft Auto, regularly played by young children, rewards players for acts of violence towards women including raping and murdering prostitutes. (No, I'm not kidding). We also can't forget, there's no doubt, according to research, that girls are affected by what they see and often question (even subconsciously) their own value and worth when subjected to such demeaning messages. Worse of all, boys are brainwashed with the mentality that girls are nothing but objects to use and abuse emotionally, sexually and physically.
4. Video games are addictive in nature. Statistically, children who 'game' do so far more often than children who watch television. The 'just one more level' mentality has kids couch-ridden for hours determined to 'win'. Along with the appeal of winning, comes the allure of feeling powerful, changing your identity, and having authority. These are definitely true of multi-player online games that never end and where the player can never really 'win'. Gaming is a huge world-wide business (I call it an epidemic), with millions of kids, teens, and adults falling under the label, “Video Game Addict”. It's no joke. People are losing their lives (both physically and spiritually) over Video Game Addiction.
5. Violent Video Games are a poor and destructive substitute for real life adventure. When kids (or adults!) are in front of a screen, they AREN'T doing something else. This is the premise for our screen-free home. Kids have an inate longing for adventure; especially boys. They want to go on journeys, experience new things, fight valiant 'battles', and come out the 'winner'. What so few children in today's culture are being offered, is the opportunity to do these things in REAL life. So, screen-life has replaced real life and kids and families are losing the love of nature, physical activity, and hands-on experiences we used to live by. The God-given ability to see beauty in the everyday adventure, no matter how small, becomes blurred and eventually completely blacked out.
So yes, if you care about your child's spiritual, physical, emotional, and psychological well-being, violence in video games matters very much. It is up to us, the most influencial people in the lives of our children, to make wise and educated decisions about this mass media. It is up to us to stand our ground, know what's right for our family, and never fear standing apart from 'the crowd'. The quest to maintain our children's purity, sense of wonder, peace, and innocence is a long and very narrow road these days - but march on with confidence and follow your heart and God's Word.