Do videogames lead to violence? ‘Yes’ says Grossman in presentation

By Jordyn McGinnity

Lumen Reporter

“Violent visual imagery is to the five-year-old as pornography is to a 15-year-old,” Lt. Col. Dave Gross­man said in his presentation “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill” on Tues­day, Jan. 31.

Grossman, who has written two books which are required reading for U.S. Marines and is the director of the Killology Research Group, spoke to an audience of around 500 in the Fine Arts Center Main The­atre on the subject of violent video images in the media and the effects these images are having on children.

Grossman said his interest in how violent video images are affecting children began in 1998 when an 11 and a 13 year old boy opened fire at his son’s school in Jonesboro, Ark., killing four students and a teacher.

“I cannot tell you the magnitude of the horror when you turn on your television and see your kids’ school on national television,” Grossman told the audience.

After this incident, the largest juvenile mass murder in history before the Columbine school shoot­ing in 1999, Grossman began trying to track what he considers to be a new factor that is resulting in the in­creased violence at schools.

“Five thousand years of recorded history, 500 years of gunpowder, 150 years of repeating fire, and no juve­nile mass murder until 1970,” Gross­man said.

Although Grossman did not specify what mass murder occurred in 1970, he repeated this phrase five or six times during his speech, saying that it was clear to him that whatever factor was increasing vio­lence at schools was relatively new.

Media violence, particularly vio­lence targeted toward children in the form of video games, was the factor that Grossman finally came up with.

According to the website Mag­navox Odyssey, the first video game console in the United States came out in 1972, and arcade games were popular before that.

“Media violence causes violence in our society,” Grossman said. “All school killers have had one thing in common. They all dropped out of life and immersed themselves in a culture of violence, especially video games.”

Grossman is not the only person to come to this conclusion. In 1992 the Journal of the American Medi­cal Association released a document that said television violence was a causal factor in homicides commit­ted annually. The AMA stated that this was not immediately apparent after the introduction of violent vid­eo images because it takes a series of years for children to be conditioned to this violence, and then to act on it.

Grossman stated that violent video images such as those shown in violent video games or movies trigger fight or flight hormones that flood the brain.

“Video games render entire por­tions of the brain inert,” Grossman said. “[These hormones] completely rewire the brain.”

Grossman said that there is noth­ing wrong with adults playing vio­lent video games or watching vio­lent videos, because adult brains are capable of handling the violence. But most video games are geared to­ward a younger consumer market.

“It’s a sick, sick industry making sicker and sicker games every year,” Grossman said.

People are biologically inclined to learn what Grossman called “sur­vival skills.” These survival skills are why people slow down to look when passing an accident scene, and also why violent video images are so appealing.

“We are biologically inclined to seek that data,” Grossman said.

Two of the strongest human drives are the survival drive and the drive to reproduce.

Not only are people, especially children, drawn to violent images because of their survival instincts, but “[Children] have been system­atically conditioned to relate hu­man suffering and death with pop­corn and candy and pleasure” due to movie theaters showing violent movies which children then go to, Grossman said.

Some people argue that violent video games and movies have rat­ings that are meant to prevent chil­dren under a certain age from see­ing certain images, Grossman said. However, Grossman quoted a re­cent survey conducted in upstate Michigan saying that “30 percent of second graders have played Grand Theft Auto,” a video game rated ma­ture.

Grossman did not say who con­ducted the survey or who was re­sponsible for young children play­ing games rated too mature for them.

However, violent video images do not irrevocably damage children. Grossman said that violence is like a drug, but when it comes to the hormones released when someone sees violent images “it takes only 48 hours to detox the brain.”

After a brain is detoxed, much of the problem and stress is alleviated, and detoxing from violent video im­ages can be as simple as turning off the TV Grossman told the audience.

“The most memorable thing I took from the presentation was learn­ing that the [violence] problem can be reduced by doing a few things such as turning off the TV for a cer­tain amount of time,” said Anthony Guagliardo, a sophomore dietetics major from Hartford, Wis.

Guagliardo is not part of the vio­lent video game culture, but he said that after the presentation he want­ed to learn more about some of the especially violent games Grossman mentioned, such as Manhunter 2 for Wii and Grand Theft Auto, since he didn’t know more about them than what Grossman told the audience.

“The only problem I had with the presentation were some of the sta­tistics and studies he talked about,” Guagliardo said. “Sometimes when he was talking about certain events or trends, he didn’t explain how they were connected to violence in the media.”

Grossman’s presentation “Stop Teaching our Kids to Kill” was spon­sored by the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership. He was introduced by Director of Campus Safety and Security Dave Pleasants.

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