August 12: Four children aged four and five were suspended from their nursery school in New Jersey, US, for using their fingers for guns in a game of cops and robbers. The children were heard shouting ‘I shot you’ and ‘Boom, boom’ during break time.
“It may be just a game …but it can be taken differently by other children,” said school principal, Georgia Baumann. The incident was reported in the magazine Index, published from London.
There are many who think like principal Georgia Baumann. They feel that there is more violence in children everywhere today, and these people blame violent computer games for this.
Some researchers carried out a study in US recently. They came to the conclusion that playing violent games on the computer makes children more violent than watching violent films. This is because the computer games seem more real than films for the fate of the game lies in the hands of the child playing it. He gets to play it the way he wants, and is an active participant in the game. This is a different experience from watching a film or a television series where all the child can do is watch.
John Colwell, a lecturer at Middlesex University in Britain, says his study has shown that violent computer games make children violent, especially teenage boys. The longer you play them, the more violent you’re likely to get.
Colwell reached this conclusion after studying the behaviour of 204 children from 12 to 14 years of age. All the children were students of a school in north London. The Sunday Times, a British newspaper, wrote a report on the study. The Times of India printed the report.
All the children studied spent many hours playing such games. Nearly 97 per cent of boys and 88 per cent of girls were regular users. Those boys who used the computer longest hardly had any friends. They saw the machine as their only friend. Also, the students became more aggressive the longer they played violent games. They shouted, pushed and hit other children.
Mark Griffiths is a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University in England and he specialises in computer addiction and its harmful use. He agrees with Colwell’s study. He found that children from four to eight years, if allowed to play even mildly violent games, also became violent.
“The games we used were not violent by adult standards because we could not experiment on children in that way. But even mild levels of aggression on screen would alter the way children behaved afterwards,” he said.
To establish just how much these games could make the player violent, some students of a college in the US were asked to play violent games. Wolfenstein 3D, a game in which a human hero kills villains in a very brutal manner, was one.
Then there was Doom, a video game owned by the American military which trains soldiers to kill! Others were told to play Myst, a non-violent adventure game.
After 15 minutes, the students were switched to another game where they were told they could punish their opponent with a blast of noise. Those who played the violent games could not stop blasting away. Their brain patterns had been affected.
But why are so many studies being carried out? It seems all over the world there’s been an increase in aggressive behaviour in young boys. And very often this is seen to be directly linked to the number of violent computer games they played.
Last year, two American school-boys of a school called Columbine High School, in Colorado, shocked the world by murdering 12 students and a teacher before shooting themselves. Their names were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Inquiries made later found both were fans of Doom.
How do you feel about his report? Do you think that children are becoming more violent these days? What about you? Why don’t you share your views with us?