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Do Violent Video Games Matter?

Is there a certain type of game that effects attitude in children more? Do you think that certain media should be banned or have more restrictions?

Jesse, Rush City, MN

Thank you for the good question, Jesse.

Nicholas Johnson, a Federal Communications Commissioner, said almost fifty years ago, “All television is educational. The question is, ‘What is it teaching?’” Although he was talking about TV there is abundant evidence that his statement is also true for video games. The question is not whether games or other media affect kids. They do. The question is whether the effect is beneficial or harmful.

Video games and other media are powerful, not inherently good or bad. The good or bad depends on how we use them. We know from research that violent video games, especially so-called “first person shooters” increase aggression. That’s why the video game industry itself rates almost all of them “M” for mature, meaning that they shouldn’t be sold to children and teens younger than seventeen.

I do not favor banning games, even harmful ones, because that remedy might create even more problems. Censorship is a slippery slope. Where do we draw the line if we allow government to ban certain types of speech? That’s the reason that the courts have struck down all attempts to ban games.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t and shouldn’t restrict access to adult oriented games. Retailers, for example, should follow their own policies prohibiting sales to children and teens under seventeen. Even more importantly, the job of media supervision falls to parents and other caregivers.