Bill O’Reilly, Video Games and Bad Parenting

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video gamesIn a recent column, Bill O’Reilly wrote about how liberals looks to government to cure every ill but the solution is more often found under our own roof. “Some liberals want the government to replace bad parents by pouring billions of dollars into social programs that often wind up being baby-sitting services. This is a fool’s errand. The government cannot overcome bad parenting. What our leaders can do is publicly condemn irresponsible parental behavior in vivid terms.” O’Reilly admonition is spot on especially when it comes to the issue of video games.

As the popularity of video games grows, so do calls for regulation, in part by politicians and pundits looking for something to blame for incidents of violence. But the facts and the science are decidedly moving in the other direction.

In 2005, the American Psychological Association issued controversial statement demanding the “the reduction of all violence in video games and interactive media marketed to children and youth.” But today the research shows a reversal of course is needed. Led by Stetson University researcher Christopher Ferguson, 228 scholars, psychologists and criminologists asked that the group reevaluate its stance to make it more accountable to reality. “Research shows there is not consistent evidence to support this statement,” Ferguson said. In fact, the opposite may be true: “In my recent research we found that for some teens with a pre-existing mental health issue, playing violent video games seemed to be associated with less bullying.”

Ferguson called the “impression that a link exists is a classic illusory correlation in which society takes note of the cases that fit and ignores those that don’t. When a shooter is a young male, the news media make a fuss over violent video games, neglecting to inform the public that almost all young males play violent video games. Finding that a particular young shooter happened to play these games is neither surprising nor meaningful.”

So far, science has not gotten the politicians to change their finger pointing. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), for instance, has introduced legislation to study violent video games suggesting that the government should address the problem because parents are not busy or not smart enough to follow the online activities of their children. Upon introduction of his bill, Rockefeller suggested that Congress would need to take an “aggressive role” in addressing the issue.

Sen. Rockefeller is not alone in playing the blame game. President Obama authorized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the link between video games and violence. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) has become a leading advocate of First Amendment restrictions on video games, Hollywood and television. Wolf seems to believe Americans see an act of violence and mindlessly act them out.

As the science moves against the “game blamers” so does the facts. Over the past ten years, video games have exploded in popularity. When the newest version of Grand Theft Auto was released last month, it achieved one billion dollars in sales in three days. In fact, the video game industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy. PricewaterhouseCoopers reports the North American video game market will continue growing by approximately five percent annually through 2015. In 1996, the U.S. entertainment software industry accounted for a modest 74.1 million units sold and $2.6 billion in sales revenue. Sixteen years later, video game companies sold 188 million units, leading to an astounding $14.8 billion in software revenue and $20.77 billion overall.

Yet during the same period, violence in the United State DECLINED. If there was a link between video games and violence, violence would have undoubtedly increased during this period of time. It did not.

Congress should embrace the economic growth and job creation associated with the video game industry rather than try to bring down a successful segment of our economy. The science and facts are clear. Video games do not create violence. Rather than threaten our First Amendment, we should, as Bill O’Reilly suggests, encourage parents to police their own children.

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