Guns, or Galleries?

Did anyone else see that disturbing study about video games on Jo Frost’s new ‘Extreme Parental Guidance’ series on Wednesday night? If you didn’t, it was pretty scary stuff. They split a group of young boys into two – one group played violent war games, while the other played a comparatively tame football game. Afterwards the researcher quizzed the boys, and pretended to knock over a container of pens. The large majority of boys who’d played the football game immediately leapt up to help, while most of the boys who’d played the war game just sat there, looking indifferent. The point the researcher was trying to make, was that just a few minutes of violent games can desensitise kids to the point where their empathy levels plummet, and they’re just not as willing to help others.
My daughter is too young for video games at the moment, but it’s something I’ll be really wary about as she gets older. That’s why I’ll try my best to encourage Lucia to take part in activities that don’t require a computer screen.
When I was a kid (when dinosaurs still roamed the land) I loved arts and crafts. This was in the late 70s, early 80s, so back then we’re talking copper beating, finger knitting, and those 3D geometric string pictures. And let’s not forget the old classic – growing a carrot tree on a bed of wet cotton wool.
That’s why I was excited to get an email from Pippa Irving, telling me about a new website she’d helped to set up called CultureLabel.com. The site is a one-stop online shop that allows you to buy a wide selection of souvenirs, games, crafts, and artwork from some of the UK’s top galleries, designers, and museums; including The Natural History Museum, The Royal Academy of Arts, The Saatchi Gallery, and The Royal Observatory.
What I really loved was their extensive kid’s section, which included everything from a fingerprinting art set, and a 3D doodle kit, to a crystal-growing tree.
These activities aren’t just great fun, they’re educational, and promote creativity. Unlike extreme video games, which just encourage you to kill as many characters, as graphically as possible. I know which I’d rather expose my daughter to…

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous - February 12, 2010

    Hi, I’ve been a fan of what you write even though I’m not a parent myself, but I do understand your concerns regarding children – I had to practically raise my brothers when we were younger. What I have to object to though is the demonising of games. My brothers and I are avid gamers, we have been playing all sorts for almost half our lives and I truly object to the general demonising of them. Our empathy levels haven’t been compromised – while I do tend to frown upon games like ManHunt, Left 4 Dead and all gangster games, my brothers on the other hand do and they haven’t been adversely affected. Then again, there are AGE RATINGS on games for a reason and war games are certainly NOT aimed at young boys, they tend to have ratings of 15+, though I can’t say for sure there aren’t any 12+ – it’s down to the parents responsibility to enforce these ratings and to judge for themselves whether their child is mature enough to handle a game like that. It’s an unethical and biased test for that researcher to choose young boys, though you didn’t say how old they were, to play games clearly not aimed at them.

    I do however, promote other forms of play and love to knit, embroider, draw and read in my spare time. My brothers also engage in other activities, simply because video games, while we do enjoy them, are not the only things we want to spend our time on. You can’t just panic over what some “expert” says; your child isn’t the same as the children on TV. If you raise her right, then you’ll have nothing to worry about – who knows, she might not EVEN LIKE video games or is just happy playing the puzzle ones like Professor Layton. It’s a bit early to jump to conclusions like that – if anything, I worry more about the TV children are exposed to these days.

  2. Mummy's Little Monkey - February 12, 2010

    Hi there! I totally agree about telly programmes – it made me think a lot more carefully about what might be playing in the background when Lucia is around. And you’re right when you say that parents are responsible for vetting what their kids watch and play, which I’ll definitely be doing!! I guess what the study really showed me is just how important it is to follow and enforce the age guidelines on the games. Moderation is the key, until they’re old enough to really understand the difference between fantasy, and real-life. I certainly don’t want to cut her off from games carte blanche, as you point out there are plenty that are fun and educational. (I was partial to a bit of Donkey Kong myself, back in the day…) Judging by the way she loves my partner’s i-Phone (she can operate it better than me!) there’s not much chance that she won’t be a total tech-head!!! x

  3. Anonymous - February 12, 2010

    Hi, me again. I really should sign these, or at least get an account…

    In retrospect, I may have sounded a little heated. I apologise, but it annoys me when so called “experts” conduct biased research in an effort to fight a battle that keeps resurfacing. The argument about violent games has been going on for what feels like almost a decade now and still nothing has been done about it.

    I suppose it’ll all depend on what your little one will prefer, you’re lucky in that not a lot of girls like violent games ;) Or if they do, they have the sense to know it’s just that, only a game.

  4. Mummy's Little Monkey - February 12, 2010

    Nothing wrong with having an opinion! A subject isn’t objective until you hear all sides – I always welcome different points of view. x

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