Together With Children is the blog of the Office of Child Advocacy.
What comes to mind when you think of violence in the family setting that affects children? Probably the first things you think of are child abuse, domestic violence, or even disagreements between siblings that escalate into name calling or hitting. All of these are overt forms of violence, and very much of concern to peacemakers. You probably aren’t thinking of some of the most popular forms of entertainment for children of all ages— consuming media. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation report found that given the amount of time they spend using more than one medium at a time, today’s youth pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into the day—an increase of almost 2¼ hours of media exposure per day over the past five years.
Video games rate as some of the most popular pastimes of our children and youth. While some games have educational content and promote learning, many of the most popular games emphasize negative themes and promote:
• the killing of people or animals
• the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol
• criminal behavior, disrespect for authority and the law
• sexual exploitation and violence toward women
• racial, sexual, and gender stereotypes
• foul language, obscenities, and obscene gestures
There is growing research on the effects of videogames on children and there are concerns about the effect of violent video games on young people who play videogames excessively.
Studies of children exposed to violence have shown that they can become: “immune” or numb to the horror of violence, imitate the violence they see, and show more aggressive behavior with greater exposure to violence. Some children accept violence as a way to handle problems. Studies have also shown that the more realistic and repeated the exposure to violence, the greater the impact on children. In addition, children with emotional, behavioral and learning problems may be more influenced by violent images. Children and adolescents can become overly involved and even obsessed with videogames.
Because many children as young as eight now have access to handheld devices, parents have less control over media content than in years past. More than ever, parents need help in evaluating media and in limiting the amount of time children spend consuming media. Websites such as the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood provide useful information. The Office of Child Advocacy’s resource Children and Violent Video Games is a helpful resource.
Today, pray for children whose lives revolve around screen time. Pray for parents who seek to find a healthy balance between video games and outdoor time, virtual relationships and deeper relationships with other children and adults, the Internet and interacting face-to-face.
Increasingly, our world is not a safe place for children. Considering the vulnerability of children across the globe is sobering. But even worse, far too many children are not even safe in the places where they should be able to expect sanctuary: their own homes.