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Do Video Games Make Kids Violent ?

First, let me express my deep feelings of sorrow and grief over the horrific incident of mass killing that happened  at Sandy Elementary School, Connecticut.We are really shocked at the immensity of this tragedy. It is so painful to see those innocent lives being deprived of their right to live. My  heart goes out to their families and to all Americans.

With every shooting incident in the United States, a revived discussion about the possible causes of such terror comes to the surface. Video games are partly blamed for this and as one of them said on CBC last night  excessive exposure to violent video games normalizes scenes of bloodshed inside the gamers mind driving them to think and view  the real world as a game worth playing. The guy did not mention any scientific studies to corroborate  what he was saying but I believe a lot of people ( including me ) share this viewpoint . However, this morning after  reading  Paul Gee's take on this I started reconsidering that previously-held viewpoint. In  his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Second Edition: Revised and Updated Edition . Paul Gee made a good point about the relationship of violent gaming and real world violence. I am sharing with you part of what he wrote in the Violence and Gender section   ( Pages 11-13 ) :

 " None of the current research even remotely suggests video games lead to real-life violence in any predictable way. As a good many people already know, since it has been pointed out by conservative politicians and policy makers as a sign of the effectiveness of their social policies, there has been a pronounced decrease in violent crime since the earlier 1990s, the very time when violent video games were introduced, for example, Mortal Kombat, Doom, and Quake. Even more to the point, if playing violent video games leads to a statistical increase in violence we should see a rise in violent crime, say, after QuakeCon each year, an event which draws thousands of gamers to play violent games. So far no one has found any such thing. On the other hand, some  researchers  have argued that video games have beneficial effects in regard to violence:  for example, that teens use violent games as a way to manage feelings of anger as an outlet for feelings of a lack of control. 
In my view the issue of violence is overblown ( especially in a world where real people are regularly killing real people in wars across the world that we watch on television ). Debates over violence in video games are one more way in which  we seek to talk  about technology doing things to people rather than talking about the implications of people's overall social and economic  contexts. Having said that , I don't advocate having young children play M-rated games and I most certainly  advocate that parents know what their children  are doing and engage in ongoing discussions with them, discussions in which they seek not just to teach their children but to learn from them as well.

The question as to whether video games ( or computers, or televisions, or what have you )  are good for you or bad for you  all by themselves is actually meaningless. Technologies have effects, and different ones, only as they are situated within specific contexts. So we always have to ask how the technology was used and in what context it was being used. For example we have known for some time that  television is good for children's cognitive growth if they are watching it in a reflective state of mind, for example, because an adult is interacting with them and discussing what they are watching with them.If the child is just passively consuming television, then it is not of any great use. It is also great that children raised in a culture of violence or abuse may consume media, not to mention their real world interactions,  as fodder for their anger and confusion. In these cases, we would hope, of course, that policy makers would speak to the real world culture of violence or abuse and not just the virtual images the child sees."

What do you think about what Paul said here ? Do you agree with him ? share with us your opinions in the comment form below.

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