Should video games be held accountable?

As violence among teens increases, who should take responsibility: parents or products?

A 19-YEAR-OLD MAN accused of murdering a teenager with a shotgun claimed that a history of violent video games affected him into action.

“He would just go into his room and play those video games,� his mother said at the trial, completely ignoring the fact that he had a past history of emotional disorders and had been using mind-altering drugs for quite some time.

Video games are the latest in a long line of scapegoats that people have been using as an explanation for violent behavior amongst youths.

First, people blamed the lurid pulp magazines and comic books of the 1930s.

Then came the cowboy serials on TV.

Next was violent movies, rap music and nearly anything else popular and trendy.

I’m surprised fashion hasn’t been blamed more often.

Now, video games are getting the blame.

Whenever Joseph Lieberman or Hillary Clinton steps up to the pulpit, they advocate a deep-seated need to protect our youths by limiting free expression. This, though rather contrary to the First Amendment, is not something that needs to be contested.

Games like “Grand Theft Auto� should be kept out of the hands of children, whether through better enforcement of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board system or regulation of the gaming industry and the retailers themselves.

The real issue — the one people are afraid to even mention — is that parents need to take an active role in what their children are playing.

How many times do we hear stories in the news about some teenager going on a rampage at his school, only to have the parents decry those blasted video games he used instead of real social contact?

Nobody wants to blame the parents. There is some stigma that says we cannot level our accusations at those people that, sometimes, simply failed to raise their child properly.

Can video games really cause people to go off the deep end and commit murder?

Many studies have been conducted all over the world. Some say yes. Others say no. All of the research is inconclusive and, ultimately, irrelevant.

There is no reason for parents to buy their 13-year-old son or daughter a game that delights in murder on a grand scale.

When the “Hot Coffee Mod� scandal broke out—in which gamers discovered that a secret sex mini-game could be opened up in the PC version of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas� — parents were horrified to discover their kids had access to this kind of content.

This is despite the fact that the back of the box clearly read: “Rated M for Mature due to Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs,� according to the ESRB Web site.

Had they actually looked at what they were buying their son or daughter, maybe these parents wouldn’t have been so horrified.

What’s truly horrifying is that this level of disconnect between parents and children even exists.

The teenage years are some of the hardest times any person will ever go through.

Teenagers undergo a heavy physical and emotional change while they try desperately to contend with a school system that cannot cater to their specific needs, but will damn them for failure.

Sprinkle a heavy dose of peer pressure atop of this and we have a heavy recipe for angst and depression. It’s no wonder many of today’s kids are depressed. It’s amazing that any of them manage to grow up at all.

If you want to help your children, pay attention to them and get involved in their world. Pay attention to what they are doing, explain the differences between reality and fiction to them if they need it and support their interests in a constructive way.

But, if you don’t have time for that, don’t worry about it. I’m sure you’ll find out about their problems on the 6 o’clock news.

There are even plenty of scapegoats for you to blame for failures that couldn’t possibly be your fault.

Joe Johnson is a senior at Fresno State majoring in mass communication and journalism. He owns over 350 computer and video games in a collection worth more than $5,000. 

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