Educators urge review of violent video games
Updated 10:49 pm, Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Violent video games will be high on a long list of topics getting renewed attention in the wake of the Newtown massacre, local educators say.
"I think that we all for a long time have been uneasy about them," said Margie Blandsfield, a school social worker in Danbury. "We don't need government to legislate this, we need parents to legislate this in their own homes."
Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said school officials have been concerned about violent video games for years.
But he said the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School has put many other issues on the table.
"Like the immediate concern of keeping dangerous people out of the school building," he said, "and the need to review the whole mental health services issues."
Bethel Schools Superintendent Kevin Smith said Friday that a previously planned "Parent University" on Feb. 5 will be expanded to address parents' rapidly changing concerns for how to help their children in school.
He said violent games would be part of a larger conversation.
"I would talk about the ways media has desensitized or has the potential of desensitizing our children, like the violent images on TV as well as the violent first-person shooter games," Smith said.
"I would not hold them responsible exclusively," he added. "But kids have increased exposure to television and to more violence on TV. Add in the better quality of resolution and more graphic details, and it's a consonance of all the technology."
Brookfield schools also plan to reach out to parents in the coming months about topics related to the Dec. 14 shooting, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother at their home before going on a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook.
The spree claimed 20 students and six adults before Lanza, widely reported to be an avid player of violent, first-person video games, fatally shot himself.
Smith said he would seek input from a child psychologist to choose the issues for public discussion.
"What we try to do with parents is raise awareness and educate them," Smith said.
Blandsfield, a social worker at Danbury's Ellsworth Avenue School, said it is time to start educating parents about the need to monitor their children's games. She wants them to stop buying the violent ones.
She may have an ally in Max Goldstein, a Newtown eighth-grader reported to have started a movement called "Played Out" that calls on kids to throw away their violent games.
He's hoping to get a bin placed outside the Newtown Youth Academy sports center where kids can do just that.
"It has reignited issues that we all know are important, but fall to the background in the course of ordinary life," he said, citing not just violent gaming, but also access to weapons, the quality of mental-health care and the marginalization of some children.
Manos said officials know that access to weapons can be particularly troublesome when substance abuse is involved.
He said schools also must use this time to look at the social needs of children, particularly those who "feel marginalized in some way," and may thus become predisposed to violence.
And he added that schools must help improve children's access to quality mental health services, so people can be seen over a period of time.
But he did not downplay the effect of virtual violence.
"Kids who are playing video games, even if they are playing alongside another kid, are not interacting on a social level and are not developing empathy," Manos said. "It is very difficult to do something horrific to someone if you are empathetic. Violent games are desensitizing and don't foster the development of empathy."