Put Your Gun Down!

For the past three summers I have worked at a day camp at a private school in my hometown.  I was given a great opportunity to work with children aged 3 to 9 of all characters, shapes, sizes and attitudes. One of the main rules at the Montessori school is no weapons, weapon noises, or weapon references were allowed while at school.  My original instinct was that most of these young children would have no idea what a weapon even looked like, let alone how or why to use one, but through my experience I have observed that it is common for a child as young as 3 years old to have more knowledge on violent weapons than I expected.

Throughout my three years as one of the main administrators at the Montessori school, I came across many incidents that involve violent activity. Whether it was verbal or imaginary weapon use, it always amazed me that despite being so young, they were very educated on weapons and violence in general. I realize that children today have easy access to numerous sources, such as cartoons, comics, and the worst culprit of today’s generation, video games, through which they can learn about violence. I guess I never realized how common and normal it is for average families to own a video game consol. When I was younger, it was the norm for families with young boys to own video games, which usually consisted of games for racing cars and the Super Mario Brothers. Today however, video games are used by both genders and are overall extremely more violent; therefore, children have easier access to being influenced by violence. According to theAmerican Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), “children exposed to violence have shown that they can become ‘immune’ or numb to the horror of violence, imitate the violence, and show more aggressive behavior with greater exposure to violence” (AACAP, 2006). This supports George Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory.

Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory deals with the idea of an excessive amount of one thing, (in this case violent television) leads to perceiving the world in that particular way. Gerbner focuses on heavy TV viewing and how those who are “heavy TV viewers become fertile ground for sowing thoughts of danger” (Griffin, 2009. p.353), meaning those who watch an extreme amount of violent television, will see the world as an unsafe and mean world. The children I work with are exposed to violence as young as 3 years old through sources such as television, but mainly video games. The AACAP states that video games have become more popular than movies and TV, and the realistic feel draws people of all ages in (AACAP, 2006). One way young children are exposed to the more violent genres could be through watching their parents playing these violent games, since adults today get a kick out of life-like gaming as well.

I believe the effect video games have on young children supports Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory, expanding the theory further than the effects of television shows. It is amazing how vulnerable children are and through the massive amounts of violence I have witnessed, while teaching at the Montessori school, even though they think they are being playful, is mind-boggling. Hopefully the younger generations can learn about this theory and realize how influenced we can be, without even realizing it.

1. Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence. (2006, July). AACAP. Retrieved from http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_video_games_playing_with_violence.

2. Griffin, E. (2008). Communication: A first look at communication theory (7thed.) Boston: McGraw-Hill



2 thoughts on “Put Your Gun Down!

  1. Sarah Bradley says:

    Your post struck a chord with me. While I’ve never grown up around violence, I realized later how much violence is in movies, TV shows, games, etc. around me. I babysit often and was a nanny for two years in high school and I noticed how much violence was in things that the kids watched, without them even realizing it. There were some shows that were basically harmless that they were not allowed to watch, but there were other shows that they still saw with parental permission that had violent overtones. The kids would then be playing games with their friends and would sometimes “act out” some of the violence they saw in certain ways and it seemed harmless enough without really thinking about it.
    When the kids would play video games, I would often suggest playing a game like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, games that did not display violence and were much more about having fun. This usually went over well. Most of the games the kids owned were not violent but I did notice a few violent moments every now and then and was really shocked. I see the same thing now in college-a lot of people I know play games like Call of Duty and the way they express violence by, for example, “getting the most kills”, was intense. Still, I do not think that this means that a person that plays violent video games will become violent.

  2. Brandon Kelly says:

    I very much so agree with this post. Being exposed to violent things such as games and TV can make you assume that the world is evil also known as the “Mean world syndrome” I would agree with the study done by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Agood example would be by gang members. I have had friend who grew up around gangs and violence, when a local mother was murdered in her front yard near me, my friend saw the whole thing. He sai he was use to seeing dead bodies and that the man with the gun (her ex husband) didnt scare him because he was use to violent tendancies in his old neighborhood.

    While yes video games might influence how children act, in the overal picture, in my opinion, videogames can’t be and shouldn’t be blamed for childrens violent tendancies. These tendencies come from the people around them more than a video game. For example if a son see’s his father or even his brother gang banging he gets t he idea that it is okay because his role model ( father or brother) doing the gang banging. I feel like it is experiences of the indivual that shapes who they are, not a video game.

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