Grand Theft Childhood

Dr. Lawrence Kutner spoke about his research with children and their parents about the effects of and reason for playing violent video games.

Kutner started off with the historic tradition of moral panics over video games and other mediums, like the paperback novel. He discussed the scandal of 1873 with Anthony Comstock and congress using "the protection of children" rationale to district the public from larger issues of the time. The controversy of dime novels and the corruption of youth. By understanding the historical context of public fear,

Hayes Code prevented showing dynamiting of trains in fears of instructing people how to do it.  Dime novels, movies, comics all used antidotes to show "evidence" of the negative impacts on youth. 

Fear of violence in games like Mortal Kombat in the early 90's. Are the current fears over video games no different than these historic examples?

While the statistics that were displayed were outdated, the Pew data showed that children are playing on a regular basis. He used examples of the DC Sniper and Columbine quotes on both sides arguing for and against games as a factor. Evidence shows that violence in schools has gone down over 20 years, but the coverage has gone up. There is no official profile of "school shooters." Only 1 of 8 had shown any interest in video games. Using FBI stats, youth violence peaked in 1994, overall youth crime is down. Only simple assaults have dramatically increased. Explanations in mandatory aressets.

Kids listed the 5 most played games in the last 6 months. #1. GTA 44% Madden 34 28% Halo (boys)

Girls #1 Sims, #2 GTA

Only 5% of boys 6% played with adults. For 96% of boys the reason to play was a social experience to play. Children that play M rated games are most likely to have gaming in their bedrooms.

62% used games to relax, about 25% used games for emotional regulation (forget problems, get anger out, feel less lonely). This is a key that the games are not causing the problem, but a sign of a larger problem.

They did focus groups with both parents and kids. Parents of boys were not concerned about gore, more concerned about violence against women and minorities. Were concerned about sex in games more than general violence. Kids were most concerned about language. Kids asked about what age was appropriate for M rated games. Kids were concerned about the same issues as parents and "swears" for their younger siblings. Boys that were surveyed were much more concerned about sex, than violence.

Reasons found for "Why play violent games": Compete and win, get anger out, modding, and guns (unclear on meaning)

The researchers sought to understand what qualified as violence. Violence is not aggression, and that distinction is important. Statistical prediction cannot show causation. Children studied were clearly able to distinguish fantasy from reality.

What attracted kids to games were the complexity of gameplay, narrative, and character. Most happened to be M rated.

Sample was light on Latino and Asian, versus national average. But the sample was broad, urban and suburban, race, socioeconomic class was representative. Their sample showed the heavy ownership of consoles, which matches the Pew Internet survey.

Question asked about ethical questions in games. Kutner stated that content in games should be developmental appropriate. Another question was asked about children's developmental stages where they are able to see violent games as fantasy vs. reality. Kutner, a psychologist, stated that child play is traditionally violent, games may have less of an impact because they can influence the experience and shut it off… unlike movies or television.