Sunday, October 17, 2010

Supreme Court to consider banning violent video games for minors

By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 10/17/2010 01:20:52 AM PDT

Eleven years have passed since two teenage boys massacred 13 people at Columbine High School. During that investigation, it was revealed that they were avid players of weapon-based combat games Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.

Newspaper articles across the country focused on the allegation that video games were the cause of the tragedy.

Violent video games are still a problem among America's youth today. That's no surprise, considering their popularity.

A study (Grusser, 2007) said 11.9 percent of video game players fulfill diagnostic criteria for addiction concerning their gaming behavior. Researchers say that 8.5 percent of video game players ages 8-18 exhibit pathological patterns of play, exhibiting at least six of the 11 symptoms of damage to family, social, school or psychological functioning (Gentile, 2009).

In Broward County, Fla., two attacks among the same group of middle-school students at Deerfield Beach Middle School left police and parents wondering why. The first involved a girl being beaten nearly to death by a 15-year-old boy over a text message.

As if that's not bad enough, this is the same school where students nearly killed another student by setting him on fire last year. Where's this aggression coming from? A quick review of popular, violent video games will show you the connection between them and violent acts by America's impressionable youth.

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family:

* Over-dependence on video games fosters isolation, as they are often played alone.

* Practicing violent acts may contribute more to aggressive behavior than passive television watching. Studies also find a relationship between watching violent television and behavior.

* Women are often portrayed as characters that are helpless, or sexually provocative.

* Game environments are often based on plots of violence, aggression and gender bias.

* Playing violent video games may be related to aggressive behavior (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Gentile, Lynch & Walsh, 2004).

* Games can confuse reality and fantasy.

* In many games, players must become more violent to win. In the “first person” violent video games, the player may be more affected because he or she controls the game and participates through the eyes of his or her character.

I think anyone can reasonably see that exposure to violent video games has an effect on young people. Studies suggest even occasional exposure to violent games has a negative influence on young players.

The reality is, video games are here to stay. The U.S. video game industry reached over $21 billion in sales in 2008, according to the NPD Group Inc. (, a leading global provider of consumer and retail market research information for a wide range of industries since 1967.

The group also said video games account for nearly one-third of entertainment industry spending in the U.S. I don't foresee the popularity of video games fading soon.

I want to mention that not all video games are violent and bad for children. Actually, they can be very helpful instruments in learning. According to one study (Graf, 2009), children use about two-and-a-half times more energy when playing Wii bowling and doing the beginner level activities than they do while watching TV.

California passed a law in 2005 that would have required violent video games to include an “18” label and criminalized the sale of these games to minors. The law was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, whose ruling was upheld in February 2009 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Then the case went to the Supreme Court.

This is the first time that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on any of the state laws attempting to ban certain video games. Until now, lower courts have struck down these kinds of laws. Oral arguments are scheduled to take place on Nov. 2.

As It Stands, parents can't stop violent video games from being sold, but they can censor what their children play and educate them about the dangers.


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