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Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill by Lt Col Dave Grossman & Gloria DeGaetano

Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie & Video Game Violence is a short and easy read on the topic, written for a general adult audience, particularly parents.

Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill by Lt Col Dave Grossman & Gloria DeGaetano

The two authors are experts on the subject. Lt Col Grossman (ret.) is a professor of psychology and of military science, knowledgeable and experienced in military conditioning techniques. DeGaetano is a media-literacy educator who is knowledgeable on the conditioning effects of violence on the young.

The main text is organized into an introduction and five (5) chapters. Research studies and expert opinions are mentioned throughout as supporting evidence. References are provided as endnotes. The authors quote only the pertinent details of any research for the sake of brevity and accessibility. Whilst that is mostly sufficient for a text that is intended for parents of young children and teenagers, a little more detail regarding each study mentioned will make it more satisfying.

Chapter One – It’s a Violent World … For Our Kids points out some general observations and statistics regarding the amount of violence children are exposed to and the violence carried out by children, including bullying and cyberbullying. The authors also point out that it is not guns per se that contribute since guns in the US have always been available but to ask “why kids want to pick up weapons with the intent to kill in the first place”.

Even though crime rate may be down, there are factors to consider such as advances in life-saving technologies, incarceration of criminals, aging population, improved crime prevention, underreporting and that crime rates do not reflect the absolute number of crimes committed since rates can decrease with the number still increasing.

Chapter Two – The Compelling Evidence briefly reviews the history of “denial and debate” regarding TV violence starting in the 1950s. This escalated during the 1980s when toys accompanied and sponsored violent cartoons and the increasingly violent video games from the 1990s onwards.

The authors discuss the four effects of media violence: (1) increased aggression; (2) increased fear; (3) desensitization to real-life and screen violence and (4) increased appetite for violence.

Chapter Three – Murder, Torture, Brutality: Dangerous “Games” is an interesting chapter that discusses the psychological effects of playing video games. The authors break it down into four areas. Video games provide: (1) satisfaction, including autonomy, competence and relatedness; (2) a sense of control, “immediate and continual reinforcement”, escape, and excitement (attached to violence), thereby fueling the habit or addition; (3) the opportunity to practice (repetition), thereby making video games and simulators effective teachers and trainers and (4) conditioning by desensitization, since “[o]nce the brain disconnects from empathy, it solidifies the link between pleasure and violence.”

Chapter Four – The Story I Tell about Myself is about self-identity; that is, how a child senses their own identity. Mass media focuses one’s attention on the external world, distracting one from self-reflection. The authors break down the discussion of child development into age groups. In short, children imitate and act out what they see. Role-playing and experimentation, even some aggressive role-play, is normal. The problem is constant exposure to violence and the repeated role-playing involving violence.

Chapter Five – Action Speak Louder than Words is a general guide to help parents manage their children in this area. Basically, limiting the hours in front of the screen, developing analytical skills by discussing what is seen and how it works on the audience (media literacy), and providing alternatives such as creative outlets, all serve to help children develop.

There is a Resources section afterward which includes topics for discussion and activities suitable for different age groups. This section also includes a helpful chronology of major findings and actions regarding media violence from 1952 to 2013.


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