Developing moral reasoning isn’t a game | Family Events


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Violent video games leave their mark
on moral reasoning

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My husband enjoys violent video games and allows our 11-year-old son to play with him, even games rated “M.” He believes as long as they play violent games together, it’s ok because they are bonding as father and son. I worry that our son is too comfortable with violent games at a young age but I don’t want to discourage them from spending time together. We don’t let him play these games with his friends — only with his dad. Is this ok? Post answers on our Family Events Facebook Page.

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Last week we we asked Family Events readers to give advice to a mom whose husband doesn’t attend church with the family. How should she discuss this with her children? Here’s some of their insight:

“It’s important for children to know that one of the greatest gifts God gave us is ‘free agency’- the ability to choose for ourselves. Dad is using his free agency, even though our Heavenly Father wants us to attend His Church. Remind them everyone learns from their decisions, and Dad is one of His children as they are.”

—Sandy

“I married a wonderful guy who like your husband did not like to attend church. But we agreed that I would bring the children up in the church. People do not ask kids if they want to attend school or not. So why the confusion on church attendance. Children need faith and knowledge of God to make informed decisions as adults. But my daughter eventually thought she did not have to attend church like Dad. I asked him to consider part-time attendance because he valued family and time together so much. He started going 50% of the time. He ultimately agreed to send our kids to Christian schools for the additional training I felt they needed in this culture.”
—Kris

“Lead by example and show enjoyment in your faith.”
—Cheryl

“Let you chirldren know that people grow in different ways, and daddy will come to church one day, also pray that God will move upon him to attend church with his family, and then thank God for his answer, even though you haven’t seen it come to pass yet, cause in the spiritual realm your prayer has already been answered when you pray.”
—Earlene

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Recently, I got a fancy new smart phone. As is typical, my children already knew how to use it before I even opened the box, but that’s a topic for another day.

Before I could even read the package insert and learn how to charge the battery, my daughter had downloaded the game “Angry Birds” onto my phone and was on an advanced level.

If you don’t know, “Angry Birds” is a game in which cartoon birds are used as projectiles to hit various targets. (In the interest of journalistic accuracy, I played a round so I could describe it to you.)

So there are these birds. They are round — as if they’ve all eaten bowling balls — and they have angry looks on their faces. They’re stacked like cannon balls next to a slingshot. To play the game, you swipe your finger on the smart phone screen to pull the shot back, launching the bird into a pyramid of bunnies. The bird explodes into a pile of feathers.

Now you understand why the birds are angry.

I don’t know what happens after the first round, as my interest in journalistic accuracy only goes so far. In all honesty, it’s pretty funny, despite the likely horrified response of Audubon Society members.

Is it dangerously violent? No. I have no fear that my 13-year-old daughter will soon start terrorizing the bunnies in our backyard by capturing and catapulting sparrows in their direction. More importantly, this game doesn’t draw the player into a fantasy about acting violently toward other people.

Mostly, its effect is to wear down the battery on my cell phone, so I only let my daughter use it when I’m forcing her to do something unpleasant, like wait for me at the post office.

Some games really are dangerous, though

On the other hand, many video games played by the vast majority of American children between the ages of 7 and 18 are disturbingly violent, according to a recent study from researchers at Simmons College.

Violence in children’s media has been studied for decades and the consensus is that while it doesn’t cause violent behavior, it contributes to aggressiveness and bad attitudes. According to this latest research, the violence in video games is taking a toll on the development of moral reasoning in our nation’s children.

This Week's Quote

Moral reasoning is based on understanding the perspectives of others, but the researchers found violent video games provide no perspective on the suffering of victims and in fact, hinders this crucial developmental step.

Seventy one percent of the games played by the children in the study contained at least some mild violence, while 25 percent included intense violence, blood and gore. In fact, the study found children ages 7 to 12 routinely play games rated “M” for mature audiences, meant for players over the age of 17.

The study also found that children play mostly the same kinds of games. For example, kids who play video games featuring sports play mostly that kind, while kids who play violent games play mostly those.

The most popular violent games such as Grand Theft Auto, Halo and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare feature narratives that put players in morally compromising situations that reward acts of violence. The lines between good guy/bad guy often are blurry or non-existent, which means violent actions can’t be “justified” by a moral purpose.

The point isn’t that kids who play these games will necessarily be inspired to act violently. Rather, the study’s assessment of children’s attitudes confirms that extended play of violent video games impedes the development of moral reasoning. This means children can’t distinguish right from wrong when it comes to using violence, and sometimes believe that acting violently is the right thing to do.

But to what effect? The study doesn’t say, but you don’t have to be a social scientist to connect the dots between the effects of violent video games and the rampant increase in bullying and aggressive behavior on the part of our nation’s children. That’s just one obvious extension of a morally undeveloped character.

Playing violent video games clearly is influencing the character of our children. As parents, we all should ask ourselves if the games our kids play reflect the values we want to instill in their hearts.

Thanks for reading and sharing Family Events!

Take good care until next week,

Marybeth

Articles to Follow
Survey Results Study: Violent video games can interrupt a child’s moral learning Read More Back to School Children and Violent Video GamesRead More
familyfacts.org Some video game ratings to be automated by ESRB

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Religion Clash Best video games for kids

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