Over twenty years ago the Dakin toy company, then a well-known maker of cuddly stuffed animals for kids, ran a controversial advertisement in magazines and newspapers all throughout the country. With images of bloody knives, pistols and hand grenades framing the page, the headline asked the following rhetorical question:
“Is it any wonder the prisons are full?”
Still another ad in the series proclaimed:
“We help children develop more than their trigger finger.”
Directly beneath that ad was a cute little girl squeezing a Dakin teddy bear.
Dakin was trying to sell its toys, of course, but back then, the campaign was based on developing science, mainly that violent games cause children to be more violent. What they were contending then is no longer contested today: Study after study has confirmed that children who play violent video games are more aggressive and more inclined toward confrontational behavior, be it with their parents, teachers or peers.
History and controversy tend to run in circles. Although two decades have passed since Dakin ignited a conversation about the impact of certain games on kids, the subject remains in the headlines. Monday’s Supreme Court decision (7-2) striking down California’s law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children is a case in point.
There is a visceral reaction for many of us to the existence of the “games” themselves, for the same reasons articulated decades ago. Common sense tells me there is no place for sadistic and sexually explicit video games, many of which degrade women, at all, let alone in the hands of children. But then when politicians get involved to regulate their sale, freedom of speech considerations come into play. But when it comes to this issue, where should the line be drawn? For legal analysis, I would refer you to my friend and colleague over at CitizenLink (click here), Bruce Hausknecht. Bruce is an attorney and very familiar with the case and the law.
But coming at this as a father, not a lawyer or constitutional scholar, my gut reaction is simple and straightforward. Whether it’s legal for a child to buy a violent game or not, they shouldn’t, nor should parents buy it for them. End of story. There is nothing redemptive in the nature of these games. In fact, we do know that violence breeds violence.
The research isn’t merely academic, either. Just consider the recent mob mayhem on the streets of Chicago. There gangs of teens robbed drug stores and randomly mugged pedestrians. You cannot tell me these individuals haven’t been influenced by the violence and lawlessness all around them, especially that which is depicted in the video games, music, television or movies they consume. As the late Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, “What goes down in the well, comes up in the bucket.”
It’s high time for parents to parent and to show leadership by helping their kids understand the dangers and moral repugnancy of these types of games and other such forms of so-called entertainment. As a dad, it’s my responsibility to teach our boys how to treat and respect women. I do this for my two boys first and foremost by loving and serving their mom and my wife, Jean. But I also do it by helping to steer them away from products and people that tear down what I’m trying to build up.
Here at Focus on the Family, we’re here to help you navigate this ever evolving world of technology, and to do so from a Biblical point of view. Please call us or visit our Plugged In website to get more information on learning how discern the entertainment and media culture.