Media Content and Children (2 Cents from a School Principal)

In this time of shopping for Christmas gifts and holiday gift giving, I wanted to take a moment to speak to you as your child’s Principal. Speak to you as a father of four, and someone with experience with youth and children. Specifically, I want to talk about the behavior, violence, and graphic nature in many of today’s media content (movies, television, video games, etc).

Although I think of myself as a technologically literate person, and an advocate for technology in education, I have some specific concerns about what I am seeing children come to school with today. This article in our newsletter may or may not touch a nerve for some people. I don’t intend to offend, however, I do hope to raise some awareness of very relevant issues for the children of today. That concern is what the children of today are learning from popular culture such as video games, television shows, and mainstream movies.

Maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse. What I’m going to write about isn’t saying that video games are bad or television and movies are bad. What I am going to say though is that we really need to pay attention to what our children are learning from the different content they are viewing. Are they learning the behavior we want them to have? Are they learning the values and morals that we want our children to have?

Some of the most popular titles of video games, movies, and television today are often rewarding violent and/or disrespectful behavior. Let me put it to you another way. If your child were to talk back to you or be disrespectful to a grandparent, what would your thoughts be? Many of today’s shows geared toward our children, specifically reward that type of disrespectful behavior.

How about one step further. If you were walking down the street and someone came out with a gun and started shooting at people, what would your first instinct be? I think the first instinct of many would be to protect their children and to get out of a dangerous situation. How impossible is it to think that the shooter would be our very own child? However, many of today’s video games reward just such behavior. Take for example, a popular title called Grand Theft Auto. As the name implies, you are to break the law and steal cars. What many people may not be aware of though, is that you’re also rewarded for even more violent behavior. For example, you get extra points or money for shooting and/or killing police officers, prostitutes, civilians, etc.

There is a book out called Stop Teaching our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie, & Video Game Violence. The book is written by retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. In his book, one of the topics he discusses is video game violence. He specifically relates today’s first person shooter video games, such as “Call of Duty”, to video game simulators that our military uses to train soldiers for active military duty. What he shares is that the video games of today are more graphic and realistic than the simulators soldiers were training on even 10 years ago. So to go back to an earlier question I raised, what do we want our children to learn?

One thing I would ask that you keep in mind now and in general is: what do we want our children to learn? Ask ourselves what do we want our children to grow up to be? What values and morals do we hold to be important? How do we want our children to treat each other, their peers, their elders, and others? When you go to buy, and allow your children to view things, stop and think about what it is they’re going to learn from what they’re going to be doing. If what they’re about to do doesn’t show them what you want them to be, don’t let them watch it or have access to it (keep in mind the friends and homes they may visit).

For every device out there, there is plenty of content that is positive and reinforces the skills and concepts we want our children to learn. Wrapping up this article, technology such as video games, movies, and television shows have their place. They’re all very powerful tools. However, we have to keep in mind the power of that tool and what it is going to be used for.

P.S. Favorite “video game” in our house: NHL Hockey. Other than that, it’s lots of card and board games.

Sincerely,

Sean Martinson

smartinson@isd318.org

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