(HOST) Every year we hear about dangerous toys and games, and commentator Mark Redmond has a warning about one kind of game in particular.
(REDMOND) Now that the holiday season is here, manufacturers of video games are rolling out their latest wares, which are sure to be on the wish lists of many children and teenagers. The video game industry is huge. 70% of all young people in America live in a home with at least one video game machine, and 33% of all children have one in their bedroom. Profits to manufacturers and distributors exceed $30 billion a year.
But parents, be on guard. Many of these video games are ultra-violent, degrading and misogynistic, featuring highly-sexualized images of women. They promote practices and values that are antithetical to human dignity. For example, in one game players score points by picking up prostitutes, having sex with them and then killing them. You can also win by murdering pimps, shooting police and carjacking civilians.
Appeals to the video game industry to cut back on the gore and sadism have fallen on deaf ears. There is a rating system, but a recent Federal Trade Commission survey found that two-thirds of teenagers were able to buy games rated M, for Mature, even though they are not supposed to be sold to anyone under age 17.
There is the argument that these games, as violent and degrading as they may be, are quite harmless and have no lasting deleterious effect on young people. But the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have issued a joint statement claiming that “exposure to violent video games contributes to aggressive behavior and desensitization to violence.” The Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were avid players of violent video games, as was the 17-year-old District of Columbia killer Lee Malvo.
At the nonprofit youth service organization where I am employed, the very core of our work is a commitment to teach young people how to deal with difficult situations in their life nonviolently, in particular the prevention of violence towards females on the part of males. And yet, while we focus on helping teenagers to make better decisions in their lives, I personally believe that much of the solution lies with parents.
Parents have the power to say “No” when asked by their children to buy them violent video games, and parents should not be afraid to use their authority. When my son was in eleventh grade, he pleaded with me to buy him a newly-released game that was popular at the time. I checked it out on a parent-friendly website, realized how foul it was and explained to him why I wasn’t buying it and neither was he. He replied, “But all my friends have it! I’m the only guy in school without it.”
I responded with the time-honored retort I heard from my own parents so many times growing up, “But your friends don’t live here. You do.” He wasn’t happy, but I know I did the right thing, and I encourage parents to follow suit during this holiday season.
I’m Mark Redmond of Essex.
Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility
Mark Redmond is executive director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services and the author of The Goodness Within: Reaching Out to Troubled Teens with Love and Compassion.