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Video gaming & Negative impact on children

Since the beginning of time, man has developed stage by stage, and from the nomadic stage, he developed into a civilized juncture. But in all these stages, when he was a child, he played games that suited him and portrayed the reality of the culture and civilization he embodied. The very ancient times, children played hunting games, to eventually learn the art of proper hunting, and then as time passed by as young kids, they started playing with toys, and eventually when they started to grow a little, they started playing games outdoors.

With the concept of new games being formed, soon young boys were playing soccer and rugby and other outdoor games that required physical strength and games that challenged their endurance. Young girls apart from playing with dolls also started playing games that were played outdoors, and the games that they played also ensured enough of physical attribution towards the development of their bodies. After the invention of personal computers, children started playing computer games, which were to a level of innocent nature like Pac-man, but then itself the first sign and early warning of children being addicted to games was shown.

As we grew technologically more advanced, gaming systems started coming in, and companies like Sega and Nintendo started bringing in games that were much better than the stagnant games of computers. These gaming consoles brought in a variety of games and got kids of all ages hooked up to them for long hours. What started as innocent gaming, started turning into games of high violence, and it was brought to light by games like “Mortal Kombat”, where the characters in the game, would have to very graphically and violently kill after the match.

This game how much ever it was critiqued for its violence was a big success, not only among adults, but children starting of grade 3 and 4 too. Now in the age of play stations and Xbox, the whole gaming scenario is very different. The media, especially from an advertising angle is fairly very much responsible, and the countless no. of ads of video game consoles, have made it a must for every child. Today, because of the relentless advertising by these gaming companies in televisions, newspapers and the internet, these consoles, are first on the list of children, who initially preferred outdoor games.

Because of all the attention given to the games by the media, today video gaming industry is a very booming industry and it can be illustrated from the following: “By 2011, the worldwide gaming market will be worth $48. 9 billion at a compound annual growth rate of 9. 1% during the five-year period, with gains slowing every year because of the maturation of the current generation of consoles and Worldwide game spending jumped 14. 3% to $31. 6 billion in 2006” (Courtesy: George Szalai, Video game industry growth still strong, July 21, 2007, retrieved on February 29th 2008 from site http://www.

hollywoodreporter. com/hr/content_display/business/news/e3if5f9e6af1f789e8c28399b0253e7b78d) Today the video gaming business is much more than a booming business, and thanks to the help of media, it will attain growths unimaginable, to any business. Like drugs, video games to have their similarities, and in both cases addiction is the basic requirement of the customer, the only thing is drugs are banned, but video games are sold legally, and that too with help of lot of advertising, done from the pint media as well as from the mediums of television and the web.

Media’s influence and support to the game can be understood from the following: “Let’s be clear: games are the product of a media industry and Games can have negative influences— just as any other media can—by perpetuating negative stereotypes which are already deeply rooted in our culture or by re-enforcing existing and socially destructive attitudes and I am concerned about Rock star releasing a game called Bully in the context of a school culture which often re-enforces bullying behavior”

(Courtesy: Henry Jenkins, Director of Comparative Media Studies Program and Full Professor of Literature at MIT, June 5th 2006. Retrieved on 29th February 2008 from site http://www. gamesetwatch. com/2006/06/gamesetinterview_henry_jenkins. php) Media has always played its part in the development as well portraying pictures and giving attention to all positive and negative aspects of the society.

The situation of the gaming industry actually compliments Marshall McLuhan’s theories on the role of the media, and only the media industry cannot be blamed for it, as it is only showing the true picture of today’s society, and very much according to his theories, it is basically how much a person gets involved in the different degrees of participation by the media. It has been estimated that around 145 million Americans play video games, and out which a high 41% of gamers are under the age of 18.

Out of which is estimated that a staggering 87% of children ages 8 to 18 play video games, and speaking gender wise, the no. of girls that play video games isn’t to far behind from the no. of boys. Now when such a high no. of children play video games, and when they see games of matured and adult nature being advertised, it first grabs their attention, and the covers of such games when stacked aren’t also of much help, as most of the times they have very graphic and sexually explicit content on the cover itself.

Children of lower age, generally catch attention, when shown these things in the media, and react very resoundingly to these games. It is said by the Pediatrics association that only 2 hours of media should be allowed for children, but still it is estimated that round about six and half hours of media viewing is done by these youngsters per day, which includes their video game playing. With so much connecting to media, these children are highly influence by it, and media showing the light of the society, children are very much attracted towards games with matured contents.

The worse part is the gaming industry is systematically is using media to distribute matured and adult games to kids and teenagers, and this is very confirmed by the following: “ September 2000 Federal Trade commission report on the marketing of violent entertainment to children concluded that video game makers, along with movie and music producers were placing advertisements for violent games in media popular with youth” (Courtesy: Federal Trade Commission, 2000, Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording and Electronic Game Industries)

The fact that children and teens are the major buyers of matured games, by the misuses of media, is further proven by the following: “1) Mature-rated game is now the fastest growing segment of the video game industry and about one-third of video games now purchased are rated “M,” the marketing firm NPD Funworld reports 2) About 40 percent of those who play Mature-rated games are under 18, and children under 18 comprise less than 20 percent of the U. S. population, according to the US Census Bureau 3) 45 percent of all video game players are under the age of 18

4) The best-selling game of 2002 was M-rated: Grand Theft Auto III. 5)78 percent of unaccompanied children ages 13–16 were able to buy Mature-rated games at retail stores, according to a secret shopper survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission in 2001. Even among several of those retail stores with programs in place to restrict sales, 73 percent of unaccompanied children were able to buy violent, Mature-rated games. ” (Courtesy: Lion and Lamb Project,” Children and Teens are Major Consumers of Adult-Rated Video Games”. Retrieved on February 29th 2008 from site http://www. lionlamb.

org/factsheet1. htm) It is scientifically proven that, learning becomes easier and is more predominant; when a child is educating itself from visuals rather than writings. Video games leave a very lasting impact on children, as it is said, that children’s minds are like soft clay, they can be mended the way you want them to be. Because of the high pressure workloads, and also the high no. of children having single parents, children are being overlooked and the necessary attention that is mandatory is being highly ignored when purchasing is done in the form of media, for these children.

These children who do understand the difference between right and wrong are buying video games, which will have negative impacts on them. A child gets so engrossed in a video game that he normally overlooks the chores or the studies that he is suppose to do, and this over spending of time on vide games, brings a child to a stage of being non attentive and eventually pulls down his grades. Playing excessive games or probably hiding it from their parents and playing night long, makes children sleepy in class, also they are not able to complete assignments, which ultimately make them lose grades.

Also because of vide games, children normally tend to lose out on social events and prefer to play video games rather than attending school sports meets and children also have gone to the extend to lying to parent about being sick, and staying at home just to play their video games. These all factors contribute to the degradation of a child academically. The explanation of this behavior of children because of vides games in terms of neurology is that it affects the brains right lobe, which is responsible for emotion processing, without interfering with the left lobe, which is responsible for a person being rational.

The worst effect of video games, apart from degradation of grades and lying to parents is becoming very aggressive, aloof and also becoming more violent. Violence in games can lead to the following in children: • Lead to antisocial behavior in children • Lead to delinquency • Reinforce racist or sexist stereotypes • Desensitize children to violent acts • Teach children that using violence is an appropriate way to solve problems • Allow players to become emotionally involved with their character and take joy in

violence • Allow players to commit violent acts • Allow players to receive constant and immediate reinforcement for aggressive performance, either visual or auditory stimulation • Act as a training ground to learn aggressive behavior (Courtesy: Negative effects vs Positive effects, retrieved on February 29th 2008, from site http://www. easternct. edu/personal/faculty/swaminas/ECE%20512%20webpages%20for%20uploading/Meghan%20Video%20Games/EFFECTS%20OF%20VIDEO%20GAMES%20ON%20CHILDREN. htm)

Children tend to pick up bad things given to them from any media source, be it abusive lyrics in music, or violent scenes in movies, or worst underage children playing matured games. When children are exposed to this kind of medium, where they have power to do something which has always been considered as antisocial or has always been told to them as particularly bad things, excites them, a they are not doing it real, but the fact that, their addiction for a game which has only stuff that is violent and sexually explicit, is a matter of concern.

Games like “grand auto theft”, instigates a particular kind of love towards crime and stealing, and the concept of stealing cars and killing prostitutes and policemen is one of the highlight of the game. Games like “Carmageddon”, have concept of driving cars, with razor sharp equipments attached to the wheels, for the sole purpose of killing innocent pedestrians and dogs. This kind of game if played for hours, will actually impact on the thinking ability of a child, and eventually over the period of time, his ability to differentiate between right and wrong would vanish.

The negativity of video games has come to the limelight of many, including that of Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, and she has vowed to bring legislatures to end the sale of games of violent nature to kids. Playing video games, apart from harming them mentally, and stopping their ability to understand emotions, is also affecting as children psychically in a big way, as children do not go outdoors, and are confined to rooms playing on their consoles.

Children are getting physically very weak, compared to their previous generations, and apart from being obese, because of lack of exercise, diseases which were meant for adults like hair fall, and hyper tension are being seen in kids, because of acute inactivity due to excessive playing of video games. When addictions of video games are hampering adults, then children are very easy targets, of this media buzz.

The stagnancy in playing outdoors or for that matter in with toys or other board games is so low these days, that, toyshops are actually in losses, and there was a big slide of prominent toy franchisees due to the high sales of video games. Ample measures should be taken by parents, to ensure their children do not fall into the trap of video game addiction, and parents should firstly recognize the different rating of video games, and they should thoroughly scrutinize the vide games that are bought by their children, along with giving children explanations of how harmful violent games are, and encouraging them to play outdoors.

Also vide game retailers should also keep their moral responsibility towards youth, and should ask for ID before giving games of violent content to underage children. In the end it has to be taken care of, how our future generations mould into, with the inclusion of high impact video games in our lives.

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