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Veteran Member - Level 11
At least as far as an organization in Southington, Connecticut
is concerned. According to a recent article by Polygon contributor Brian
Crecente, a small group known as the SouthingtonSOS, based in the small
Southington community roughly 30 miles from where the Newton Sandy Hook
Massacre took place, is holding an event that they have dubbed the "Violent
Video Games Return Program."
The program will allow attendees to trade in their violent
video games (movies and music will also be accepted) for gift certificates redeemable
at local merchants and venues. Once turned in, the game discs will be broken,
thrown out, and later incinerated according to Joe Erardi, the superintendent
for Southington schools who is helping to organize the event.
"There are youngsters who appear to be consumed with violent
video games, I'm not certain if that's a good thing. If this encourages one
courageous conversation with a parent and their child, then it's a success."
While I sympathize with Erardi's desire to facilitate
communication between parents and children, I fail to see how amassing and
burning a large quantity of video games (a rather wasteful and environmentally-unfriendly
act) would help to do so. Erardi explained in the interview with Polygon that:
"The group's action is not intended to be construed as
statement declaring that violent video games were the cause of the shocking
violence in Newtown on December 14th. Rather, SouthingtonSOS is saying is that there
is ample evidence that violent video games, along with violent media of all
kinds, including TV and Movies portraying story after story showing a
continuous stream of violence and killing, has contributed to increasing
aggressiveness, fear, anxiety and is desensitizing our children to acts of
violence including bullying."
And yet, when questioned about whether he believed violent
video games played a part in the Newton shootings, Erardi plead ignorance and
deflected the question:
"I don't have the expertise to share an opinion on
that. There is never anything wrong with parents having a courageous
conversation with their children. And when you're stepping into the domain of
your child, it's always a courageous conversation."
Again, I fail to see the valid connection between having a
conversation with a child about violent video games and hosting a glorified
witch-hunt for all forms of violent media. Is destroying and burning these
games supposed to inspire people? Get them to question the influence of violent
media in their household? Cause I can think of several better ways to do so, none
of which involve a pile of burning CD's.
Apparently so can Chris Ferguson, the chair of the Texas
A&M International University's department of psychology and communication.
In a letter he wrote and sent to both SouthingtonSOS and Polygon, Ferguson
explained that, by buying into the notion that violent media plays a large part
in teen violence (an unfounded and untrue claim according to Ferguson and
several other leading scientists and psychology professors), the SouthingtonSOS
is doing more harm than good for their cause and I couldn't agree more:
"I'm very appreciative of the sincerity of your group,
but at the same time I've been concerned about some of your public statements
linking video games to bullying and youth aggression which do not accurately
reflect the science. I've done a number of peer-reviewed articles myself on the
topic, and have found no evidence linking video game violence to bullying or
any other forms of youth aggression or violence."
Actions speak much louder than words and no matter how much
Erardi and the rest of the SouthingtonSOS may *say* they're not blaming violent
video games for the Newton shootings, I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd have
a little trouble believing them if they said it as they were shoving a bag full
of broken game discs into an incinerator.
Ferguson goes on to say that the SouthingtonSOS's focus on
destroying violent media may in itself be a bad thing:
"I do worry this is going to represent a step backwards
in our understanding of youth violence, rather than a step forward. It's going
to do kind of what Columbine did. It kind of distracted us from real issues and
didn't do anything helpful."
Like Ferguson, I don't necessarily think that what
SouthingtonSOS is doing is *wrong*, I think *misguided* would be a better term.
Even though many parents may not like to admit it, violent media is not only
very prevalent in today's world, it is also easily accessible, even to teens
and young adults. As hard as it may be, parents should be more focused not on
trying to shield their children from violent media but on having healthy and
clear discussions about it.
SouthingtonSOS may have the right ideas and end goals in
mind but I hope that they seriously re-evaluate the ways in which they are
trying to reach those goals. Destroying and burning CD's doesn't help anyone,
having a clear line of communication with your child about how exposure to
violent media affects them does.
For more information be sure to read Brian Crecente's
original article about the event as well as his follow-up with Chris Ferguson.
Follow me on Twitter at @NateHohl and check out my other work at vgutopia.com and rantgaming.com