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
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
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
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
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
the media. …