I wanted to include my Argumentative essay because though I was pressed for time, I was very happy with how it turned out. I am very happy with my argument's claim. I like how specific it is and how it is actually an important aspect of the violent video game issue. The concern that violent video games may cause juvenile delinquency is one of the more grave concerns of the issue. Children cursing can be managed by parents but if games are causing kids to steal or assault others, the issue is far more pressing than people believe. Overall I am very happy with how it turned out and I have loved my topic every step of the way.
PSA: Violent Games Won’t Kill Your Kids
Violent video games have come under fire lately for allegedly damaging the mental states of children. People are claiming that children who are repeatedly exposed to violent video game content exhibit more aggressive behavior. Children who play violent video games supposedly shout, fight, bully, and even commit violent crimes more than those who do not play violent video games. While there is merited evidence that claims that children may imitate viewed violent behavior, there is also strong scientifically conducted research that has proven that violent video games are not linked to delinquent behavior, such as theft, assault, or other such crimes.
To begin, let us look at a claim that inaccurately denounces violent video games, a claim made by the National Rifle Association. Several months ago in a public address, Wayne LaPierre, the president of the NRA, spoke about a list of factors that he believes contributes to gun violence in our country (O’Donnell). Not surprisingly, the availability of guns was not included on that list, but, questionably, the video game industry was the number one factor that Wayne LaPierre believed contributed to gun violence. LaPierre believes that this “callous, corrupt, and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people” seeks to destroy our society by turning our children into killers.
I have several problems with this claim, the first being the exclusion of other media sources. LaPierre failed to address the motion picture industry, the music industry, and the publication industry in his address, which I find odd, as there isn’t a huge difference between watching a movie and playing a video game. Sure, one is interactive, but the content difference is small, and, if anything, violent movies are far more graphic than violent games. In fact, a UCLA study revealed that the percentage content of violence in broadcast television ranges from 69% to 92%, for basic cable and premium cable respectively (Key Facts) where as 73% of video games contain violence (PAMF). It’s strange that the video game industry aims to sow violence into the fabric of our nation while movies, television, and music have absolutely no effect. Secondly, LaPierre offers no convincing support for this claim. He cites no studies that support his claim and he makes a simple and shallow jab at an artistic industry on the grounds that its product brainwashes children into becoming violent human beings. There is valid concern that video games contain content inappropriate for certain age groups, as parents may not want their children exposed to sex, drugs, and violence in the games that they play, but conveniently for the parents, there is a ratings board established to help inform consumers on what exactly they are buying.
This ratings board is known as the ESRB, or Entertainment Software Ratings Board. It was established in 1994 to “provide concise and objective information about the content in video games and apps so consumers, especially parents, can make informed choices.” Essentially, video game developers submit their games to the ESRB for a rating. They do this because all public video game venders will not sell a game that has not been rated by the ESRB. The board evaluates the game and grants it one of four ratings: E for everyone, T for teen, M for mature, and AO for adults only. These ratings are based on game content and each game is also tagged for its content. An M game may feature intense violence, blood and gore, intense language, and use of drugs and alcohol. Obviously most parents would believe, and I agree with them, that this game is not appropriate for a 12 year old child. A parent that knows nothing about video games can look at the box, see the rating and its tags, and be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to buy a game for their child. Additionally, each rating is associated with an age group. E is obviously for everyone; T is for teenagers of ages 13 and up; and M games cannot be sold to anyone under 17 years of age without a parent or guardian present. AO games are not carried by physical retailers and cannot legally be sold to those under the age of 18, even with a parent or guardian present (ESRB Ratings Guide). Games that are rated AO typically change the game content and resubmit the game for a hopefully lesser rating.
Fig. 1. An example of an ESRB rating printed on a game box.
With the ESRB’s system, children cannot access video games that are outside their age of appropriateness without a parent’s permission. The responsibility falls on the parents to insure that they buy the proper games for their children. Parents who don’t pay attention to the ESRB ratings are risking their children being exposed to inappropriate content, and there has been research conducted to prove that children are subject to influence by violent video games.
Psychologist Brad Bushman investigated how exactly violent video games affect children by analyzing the fundamentals of psychology. One of the concepts he examined was the concept of imitation. He recognized that children have a tendency to mimic what they see and hear, especially from those older than them. Bushman argues that when children play video games, not just violent ones, they take in everything that they see and do. If the game contains violent actions, cursing, or other such concepts, the child playing the game will take them in. Bushman relates this idea to kids who play-fight and kids who curse at young ages. He claims, without a doubt, that children can be influenced by violent games because of this concept. Children mimic what they see, whether it be in real life or on a television screen, and while children who witness violent behavior in video games may not hurt other kids or commit crimes, Bushman shows that there is the potential for children to be influenced by violent video games (Bushman).
Young children may not have developed a deep sense of right and wrong, and seeing violence or hearing large amounts of cursing may certainly rub off on them, but as previously mentioned, there is a system to inform parents on what games are appropriate for their children. The system works well, as long as parents play their part. It is their responsibility to do some research and ultimately pay attention to what their children play. If they do, then the risk of their children being exposed to, and mimicking, inappropriate content is extremely low. If parents are actively involved in their children’s gaming lives, then parents have little to worry about. But if they don’t, they accept the consequences that their children may act in inappropriate fashion. However, I’ve had enough situations in Call of Duty where I cannot tell if my online teammate is a girl or a twelve year old to believe that every parent pays attention to the ratings.
It has been clarified that violent video games have the potential to influence children in negative ways, but to what extent? Brad Bushman revealed that violent video games can potentially cause children to curse at young ages and imitate violent actions witnessed in the T.V. screen, but are there more serious implications? Christopher Ferguson, an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M International University, conducted a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics to determine if violent video games negatively impact children on a level above inappropriate behavior. In this study, Ferguson evaluated 603 children, ages 10 to 14, on their experiences with many suspected causes of youth violence, such as depression levels, family conflicts, delinquent peer association, and exposure to domestic violence. Ferguson evaluated the children using scientifically approved questionnaires and rating scales, which examined and rated their exposure to the corresponding issues. In addition to the questionnaires, Ferguson also took into account the children’s criminal activity and bullying behavior. He then analyzed the different test results and looked for connections between the different areas of investigation. Ferguson found that delinquent peer association and criminal activity corresponded frequently with physical and psychological abuse from parents and guardians, as well as antisocial personality traits. However, Ferguson found no significant correlation between violent media and criminal activity, and delinquent peer association (A Multivariate Analysis of Youth Violence and Aggression). Ferguson was able to conclude that violent media has no connection to criminal activity and juvenile delinquency, meaning that while children may mimic behaviors such as cursing in video games, they won’t rob stores or attack other people because of the games they played.
There is now a clearly defined line between how video games can and cannot influence children, specifically that video games can influence children in regards to minor transgressions but not criminal actions. Young children who do not have an entirely developed sense of right and wrong may very well curse after hearing vulgar language in video games but they will not steal a car or do drugs after seeing these actions in Grand Theft Auto. The extent to which children are influenced by video games ultimately comes down to their parents. Video games are a potential danger to kids, but not if their parents control what they play. The incredibly vulgar language of Gears of War will never reach a child’s ears if they are never allowed to play it. In order for parents to accurately judge what their children should and should not play, they can consult the ESRB rating in the bottom left corner of every video game printed in our country. Parents have the ultimate power about what happens to their children. They choose what their children are exposed to and they choose how their children are raised. The information is out there. The warnings are in place. It is now up to the people to make the proper decisions.
"Key Facts: TV Violence." Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Family Foundation, Apr.-May 2003. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
Norcia, Andrea. "Violent Video Games and Aggressive Behaviors." Violent Video Games and Aggressive Behaviors. Palo Alto Medical Foundation, 2004. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
O'Donnell, Lilly. "PolicyMic." PolicyMic. Mic Network Inc, Dec. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
An example ESRB rating. Digital image. Obsidian Portal. AisleTen, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
Ferguson, Christopher J., Claudia San Miguel, and Richard D. Hartley. "A Multivariate Analysis of Youth Violence and Aggression: The Inﬂuence of Family, Peers, Depression, and Media Violence." The Journal of Pediatrics 155.6 (2009): 904-08.Texas A&M International University. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.
McGraw, Phillip C. " Children and Violent Video Games." Dr.Phil.com. Peteski Productions Inc., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
"ESRB Ratings Guide." ESRB.org. ESRB, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.