Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Media Violence Is Bad for Your Child

Each day we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.

- Charles Swindoll

Each day not only do we make deposits in the memory banks of our children, but so does life. And now, in our post-millenial world, many deposits in the minds and memories of our kids come from electronic media such as TV, video games, social networking sites, text messages and more. Did you know that the average American child spends one third of each day with some form of electronic media? And approximately 90 % of kids in the U.S. from eight to eighteen play video games regularly, with boys averaging about 19 hours a week.

These statistics and others you are about to read are from the research journal, Children and Electronic Media, put out the highly respected Princeton-Brookings Institute. The findings revealed here shed light on the enormous influence media have on our children’s development, behavior, and well-being. Particularly disturbing were the findings on how media violence affects kids:

- “Research on violent television and films, video games, and music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts” -- the conclusion of an expert panel convened by the U.S. Surgeon General

- “Exposure to media violence can increase aggressive thinking, aggressive emotions, and tolerance for aggression, all known risk factors for later aggressive and violent behavior.”

- Frequent exposure to medial violence causes “increased feelings of anger and revenge motives, decreased sensitivity to scenes and images of real violence, and changes in brain function associated with lower executive control and heightened emotion.” Diminished executive control in the brain causes decrease in the ability to control impulses.

- “Media violence exposure has a larger effect on later violent behavior than does substance use, abusive parents, or poverty.”

There are so many things we can’t control in life, but we DO have the power to control shows our kids watch and video games they play. Read on to find out five things you can do right now.

( To read the entire report quoted here, go to:

For a list of the 10 most violent video games scroll down.



- Carefully monitor TV shows your kids watch and video games they play. This includes what’s being consumed at friend’s houses. Check in with parents of your kids’ friends and share this information with them.

- Help your kids understand that violent videos and TV shows are harmful to them (even if they like watching or playing them). Let them know that steady consumption of violent media not only causes aggression, it also hampers healthy brain development.

- Don’t try to be the good guy. If your child says Grand Theft Auto is his favorite video, resist the urge buy it for him in spite of what you know. See below for positive alternatives that your kids can enjoy.

- Know what’s in the videos and TV shows your kids are watching. Watch things with them if you’re not sure, and press the stop button if there’s too much violence. Discuss what you saw, and use this as an opportunity to help them understand the negative impact of media violence.

- Check out ratings and content at, an excellent watchdog group that monitors all things media.

The 10 Most Violent Video Games of 2009: From Common Sense Media

(Each title is followed by a description and an acceptable alternative):

1. Manhunt. Players advance by stalking and killing victims, all for the delight of a "director" who urges you to make the killings bloodier, more cunning, and ever more horrific. Manhunt 2 is more of the same, but now you've been injected with a drug to bring out your "homicidal tendencies."
 Alternative: Mirror's Edge

2. Resident Evil 5. Using guns, swords, or a chainsaw, you shoot, hack, and slash oncoming enemies, producing copious amounts of blood. And the game's racial undertones are hard to ignore, as the white hero (accompanied by a light-skinned African American) has to kill mostly black victims infected by the zombie-causing virus.
Alternative: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

3. Dead Rising. Based on the 1978 Dawn of the Dead zombie splatter flick, this game combines gory imagery -- like shotgun blasts, chainsaw dismemberment, and hand-to-hand combat -- with images of nude women on various objects.
Alternative: Prince of Persia

4. Resident Evil 4. Players must stab, shoot, and bomb their way through hundreds of realistic-looking humans and monsters. Cursing and sexual dialogue round out the mix.
Alternative: Ghostbusters: The Video Game

5. Grand Theft Auto. (specifically Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) Players can kill other humans, including police officers, or drive into pedestrians on sidewalks and in parks. Gang warfare, beatings, drive-by shootings, and bloody deaths are all shown in gory detail.
Alternative: InFAMOUS

6. God of War II. Players can do everything from ripping the eye out of a Cyclops to twisting the head off of Medusa to slicing off enemies' arms with chains strapped to their wrists. There's also a sex mini-game.
Alternative: Batman: Arkham Asylum

7. Mortal Kombat: Deception. The goal of this game is the same as other Mortal Kombats: Kill or be killed, and make it as horrific as you can.
Alternative: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

8. MadWorld. With the Wii remote and Nunchuk in your hands, you simulate the motions used to split someone open with a chainsaw, punch opponents with your fists, or pick up and use assorted objects scattered throughout the levels to dismember, bludgeon, and impale your foes.
Alternative: Punchout

9. Gears of War. You can use a chainsaw to rip apart enemies or machine guns to spray them down. Characters and world are photorealistic, making bloody battles seem even gorier.
Alternative: Halo Wars

10. Saints Row 2. The protagonist never shows hesitation or remorse, often deliberately choosing the most violent means possible of carrying out missions -- declaring such methods "more fun" at least once -- and taking pleasure in homicide.
Alternative: Battlefield Heroes


  1. I'm just testing out how to post a comment so I can help people navigate my blog. It's like exploring the surface of the moon for the first time for those of us who've never ventured out in to the blogosphere.

  2. I had very little experience or exposure to video games as a child, my parents were of the mindset that they would rot my brain and corrupt my morals. Then I fell in love with a gamer and have gradually come around to appreciating them and looking forward to introducing my kids to them. Looking at your list, I was surprised at how several of the games were characterized. I see you did not create this list, but the descriptions in general seemed overdramatic based on my exposure to the same games. I agree that little kids probably shouldn't be playing a lot of these games unsupervised, but they're intended for adults and labeled as such. Also, a big thing that jumped out at me was that Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is considered a substitute for Resident Evil 5. Uncharted: DF is so full of casual violence and casual killing that even I had issues with it (for a funny illustration, see the awesome Penny Arcade comic on the subject: ).

    Anyway, that aside, I just don't buy that exposure to violence in media is going to harm children. I see some issues arising when kids play these games with no parental supervision or input - to me, that's the problem. Not that kids are exposed to violent media, but that absentee parents aren't there to help them process it. When parents are actively involved in kids' play, they can explain the context and mentor their kids to understand the differences between fiction and reality. Violent media is a convenient scapegoat for a culture of parents who (for whatever reason) aren't supervising or guiding their kids, but are letting them be raised by media. It is parents' responsibility to empower their kids with critical thinking tools, and to use good judgment about what kids are ready to process. I know that money is tight and nowadays both parents have to work because of the sad state of our economic system, but there needs to be some kind of shift in priorities. I am very jealous looking at countries in Europe that provide substantial assistance to parents/families raising children, assistance that allows parents to focus on their children and have that fundamentally important one-on-one time to parent, the benefits of which spread throughout the society.

    I also recommend you reading this article, about a parent who played GTA: San Andreas with his 4-year old and the wonderful interactions and insights that resulted. It demonstrates my point very well:

  3. Shara, Thanks for your comment. This is an important conversation for all parents to be having. I agree that parents need to watch videos with their kids and use them as a jumping off point for discussion. I hope more parents will follow this advice. In terms of the research on effects of media violence on kids, it's really solid, but it doesn't mean that every kid who views a violent video is going to become violent. It's more about constant exposure with little guidance on how to digest what's been viewed. Go to this link for more info: