Editorial: Video games cause problems

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 1, 2006

It is the holiday shopping season and again this year video games have been under public scrutiny.

It is widely proven that media violence &8212; whether in video games, music, print, television or movies &8212; does not translate into actual violence. In fact, study after study seeking to draw a line between media and behavior has proven just the opposite. As media violence has increased, the U.S. violent-crime rate actually has gone down. The most that can be drawn is violent video games desensitize people to violence, but as Elvis Presley could&8217;ve told you, people who commit violent acts are affected by their relationships to other people, not images they see, songs they hear or games they play.

That said, don&8217;t rush out and buy your child a violent video game. Or for that matter any video game.

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Violence is an easy way to attack the games. That shouldn&8217;t be the focus of the debate. Violent or not violent, video games are a waste of time to begin with. That&8217;s the greater issue. Consider whether the time your children spend with video games can be spent on constructive activities.

Will they use that knowledge of how to get to the final level of Grand Theft Auto when they are 35? No. Will they use that knowledge of how to grow and care for a geranium when they are 35? Yes. Will they use that knowledge of how to play cribbage when they are 35? More likely than a video game. Will they use that knowledge of how to shoot a free throw? If not, at least they benefited from the exercise.

Are video games simply a modern babysitter for teens, the way VCRs serve as sitters for tots? Times are busy, but are we too busy for time with our kids?

As for violence, parental involvement and good influences from other adults are the two best means to reduce it. Video games cause other problems in children: obesity, inattentiveness, insensitivity to others and, believe it or not, video-game &8220;addictions,&8221; which often result in poor grades at school (South Korea actually supports treatment programs to deal with this).

When you are shopping for Christmas gifts, think twice before giving your teen the game console and video games he or she &8220;just has to have.&8221; Be a good parent first. A football is a better gift than &8220;Madden NFL.&8221; Ice skates are better than &8220;EA Sports NHL.&8221;