Monday, December 05, 2005

Video game violence:shaping your children's Feeling/Thinking flow

Video games have become a part of our children's culture over the last 25 years. While PacMan may have been the start of this craze, today, the majority of video games have moved beyond the passive gobbling of circles to intense violence and killing. Twenty-five years ago, playing PacMan was an occasional recreation, today, our children are playing 4-8 hours a day. For some of our children, they've replaced the social skill building we learned playing at the park or joining a sports team.

What concerns me most however, is the power that these games may have on the feeling/thinking flow development of a child--at a time and in a way--that the child has little or no awareness of how a "block" may be forming in the way they learn to feel, think and negotiate their life choices. Consistently playing violent video games seeds a mindful orientation towards seeing the world as a pain/fear/anger--and to survive in it, I must become successful at attacking/killing others.

Of course, children don't realize this is what they're learning through the process of playing games. For them, "its just a game". But as adults, we need to look beyond the game and ask, "what is my child learning here?". And believe me, they're learning something! Games are the most effective way for a child to learn anything! Any one who studies child-development knows this. Want to teach geography? Your child will learn faster through playing "Where in the world is Waldo" than through rote learning or memorizing lists. Games are a fun, non-threatening way to learn.

What prompted this posting was reading about the changes that have occurred over the last 100 years on killing. We have shifted in the last 30 years according to Lt. Col Dave Grossman's book, "On killing: The Psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society". His research shows that prior to Korean and Vietnam wars, kill rates in WWI and WWII were lower than expected and he concludes that most humans are resistant to killing other humans. However, as military training improved soldiers became "desensitized to killing' through focused training exercises. Kill rates went from 55% to over 90% through this transition. The earlier resistance to killing other humans had been negated through the intense training and desensitization exercises.

His concern is that this has now moved onto a society-wide level and is reaching our children . His book, Stop teaching our kids to kill: a call to action again TV, movie and video game violence
highlights the impact of this constant stream of violence that our children see. As I read some of this information, I related it to Life Puzzle-making and have to conclude that the Feeling and Thinking edges of our children's Life Puzzles are being invaded by this constant bombardment and interrupting the formation of a healthy feeling/thinking flow.

While some may argue that these "games" aren't real--we forget that for young children, games become "real" because the SELF isn't fully formed and able to separate fact from fiction. As bombs go off, as people are killed, as their "SELF" feels powerful by successfully winning through killing, their brains are being patterned. If to this we add television, movies and childhood experiences that are also violent, fear-based, it isn't a quantum leap for a child to form a perception that the world is a scary place--the beginning seeds of a feeling/thinking flow that is blocked. As the child continues to play the games, sees violent TV and movies, it again reinforces this.

This might not be as alarming if there was a counterbalance to all this violence. For example, where is the video game that enable the strategy for "winning peace"? So, a teen can play Mortal Kombat for two hours, but then for another two hours he has to play World Peace Negotiator. The first game he gets to kill people all over the place, the second game he has to create sttategies that move people and world organizations to a peaceful solution of a conflict--or he ends up losing the game. Then at least, this child would have a chance at developing a healthy feeling/thinking flow. He would see a world that is both painful and pleasurable--and he can negotiate successfully in both (though I'm still not a fan of killing, period!).

I haven't been able to find many video peace games--am going to ask some of my teen friends to help me with this. But I ask you parents to get involved. Your children's feeling/thinking flows are being shaped through a lopsided presentation to your children of a violent/scary world. Its times to help balance the flow and show your children, there are just as many (and I'm convinced more, though you can't find it easily in the media) wonderful, beautiful, peaceful, and loving experiences happening too. Your children need to see both if they are going to build a healthy feeling/thinking flow. This is such a powerful piece in your children's Life Puzzle!

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