A recent article in The New York Times summarized over 10 years of research about whether watching violent video games "leads to the real thing." It found that while there is no causal evidence for violent video games and actual violent behavior, there is "consensus" that video games are a "risk factor" in the behavior. I don't need a study to convince me. In my opinion, allowing your kid to watch or engage in excessive violence (electronically) is ridiculous.

When I read this article in The New York Times, "Does Media Violence Lead to the Real Thing?" I had the same thought I always do about violence and the media: Who cares whether it causes the real thing? Why do people need a "study" to determine that letting your kid kill people in video games is probably not the most beneficial activity imaginable? To me, this is a matter of common sense.

The article states that there is no causal evidence for violent video games and actual violent behavior, but there is "consensus" that video games are a "risk factor" in future antisocial or violent behavior. In other words: "Exposure to violent imagery does not preordain violence," but it's linked to it.

The short-term effect of exposure to media violence on actual physical violence against a person was moderate to large in strength.

The article continued: "In a meta-analysis of 217 studies published between 1957 and 1990, the psychologists George Comstock and Haejung Paik found that the short-term effect of exposure to media violence on actual physical violence against a person was moderate to large in strength," meaning there is now a "consensus that exposure to media violence is linked to actual violent behavior."

Look, I don't think a kid is going to play Grand Theft Auto and run out and shoot people for their cars because they did it electronically. Nor do I think these kids are going to morph into insane criminals shooting up schools or old people. Obviously there's a lot more going on in the heads of these kids than video games, and clearly the more common outcome of these games is that a kid grows up to be a normal human (well, as "normal" as the rest of us, I guess).

But to me, the central question is a simple one: What good are these video games doing for my children?

How are they beneficial?

As far as I can tell, they are not benefiting my kids' brains, bodies or creativity, so why do it?

People have told me that video games develop mental capacity via problem solving and strategizing, etc., but I don't fully buy it. Or even if they do, video games also encourage immobility and vegetation. Obviously I could be wrong, but who cares if I am?

Yes, exactly. To me, violent video games in particular are one of those rare "no-brainers" in parenting. The answer is simple: Don't have them in the house because they benefit nobody and potentially do harm.

Why would I fill my kids' brains with violence? What good does that do?

How does it foster creativity, thoughtfulness or depth? How does sitting on your rear in front of violent images engage a child in the world?

The Buddha said: 'Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.'

I had much rather my kids do something with their own imaginations, and, forgive me for getting a little bit "hippie" here, but many of the great spiritual mystics have made it clear that you will migrate toward that which you fill your mind. The Buddha said: "Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness." In other words, the mind is trainable. I can either train it to generate thoughts that benefit me and others, or I can train it to plug into electronic, violent realities. The stuff I pour into my mind becomes my mind. Seems obvious, but given the number of people watching crap media all day long and letting their kids do the same, it clearly is not obvious.

And thank you, but you will never convince me playing outside and playing video games are equally beneficial.

Never.

Mental influence of violence

Further, when I watch a violent movie or horror flick (which I don't do anymore), I leave the theater (or finish the movie) feeling weird. There's a weird darkness over me. It's not creative. It's not enlightening and it's not inspiring. It's just dark.

Please don't think I'm arguing that we have to do good, lighthearted, character-building activities with our kids all the time. Come on. Would I do that?

As long as their minds are young, and clean and generative, I'll do my best to teach them to have control over that mind, and hold off the programming as long as humanly possible.

No. What I'm saying is this: Filling my kids' brains with death, crime and violence cannot possibly be doing any good, so why do it? Why not just make other choices? Am I trying to desensitize them to violence? Is my goal as a parent to get my kid so used to blood and death he or she doesn't even notice it anymore?

This seems like a strange plan, and I think I'll just not do that.

My kids will be exposed to violence for the rest of their lives: Murders, rapes, atrocities too horrible to fathom. I see no need to hasten that process.

And as long as their minds are young, and clean and generative, I'll do my best to teach them to have control over that mind, and hold off the programming as long as humanly possible.

More on media

Kill your television, change your life
TV in the bedroom: A do or a don't?
3 TV shows that can teach you a thing or two about parenting

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