Gauging the Effects of Violent Video Games

Article excerpt

At the Fun Factory arcade here, five-year-old Yazmine Greenridge and her mother are duking it out against a video game bad guy. Yazmine pushes the button to make her animated muscleman jump and duck, while mother Tershama uses the joystick to maneuver him on the screen.

The two are here together because Mrs. Greenridge wants to know what games her daughter is playing. "I felt the video games that kids are using at home are too violent, so I brought my daughter here," she says.

The influence of violent video games on youths - amid a greater culture of violence from TV entertainment to news programs - has become a cardinal point in the debate spawned by the school shootings in Littleton, Colo. As the fastest-growing segment of the entertainment industry, video games are coming under increasing scrutiny from psychologists and parents who wonder what influence graphic scenes of shooting and stabbing have on young people. At the same time, many experts say parents - who purchase 90 percent of all video games - must become more aware of what they're buying. "There can perhaps be no more important question in American society today than why is violence a mainstay of our children's amusement?" says Gloria DeGaetano, researcher and author of "Screen Smarts: A Family Guide to Media Literacy." "Companies make these games because they sell," she adds. "We need to ask why are they selling, and why are we as a culture buying them to keep our children entertained?" Targeting video games The current rush for to find out what prompted the Littleton shootings has led many people to probe the potential role of violent video games. This week, Sens. Joseph Liebermann (D) of Connecticut and Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah held hearings on the entertainment industry, criticizing ultraviolent video games - among other things. On Monday, President Clinton plans to hold a White House conference on violence in the media and how it affects students. But experts who study teens and the pop culture say the search for solutions should not simply center around holding the media more accountable. After the shootings, people were "trying to assess what are media doing to kids, when we really needed to be asking: What are our kids doing with media?" says Henry Jenkins, director of the Center for Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "We need to start listening to our children and engaging them on how they use these things, rather than rushing to judgment on the media. …

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