Thursday, January 31, 2008

Television and Voilence by Connect with Kids

“I think when people play video games and people watch videos and they see violence a lot, it just becomes natural to them and it just doesn't seem bad anymore, and it really is.”

– Donovan, 15

New research about the influence of media violence on children may offer a startling new way to predict who will grow up to be a violent adult: find out how much violence on television and in the movies children watched when they were 6, 8 or 10 years old.

When they watch television, movies and video games, Benford and his buddies are impressed by the violence.

“I just think it’s pretty cool -- blow up somebody,” says Benford, 16.

“Just stuck him on a hook and it came through the stomach,” says Seth, 15.

“And his guts go everywhere,” says Benford.

How powerful is media violence? Researchers at the University of Michigan have been tracking more than 800 children for more than 40 years. They started in 1960 and they found that the more young children were exposed to media violence, the more likely they were to end up as violent adults. In fact, media violence was a better predictor of later crime and violence than poverty, substance abuse or even abusive parents.

“Television is on in the average American home about eight hours a day. At the same time, people are engaged in what we call interpersonal familial conversations with one another for about four minutes a day. So where are they getting their messages? Clearly they’re getting their messages from the media,” says Art Silverblatt, PhD, professor of communications.

Experts say the message is that violence is normal.

“They become desensitized to aggression and violence. And I think that the more they’re exposed to it as well, the more they’re likely to use that form of behavior to solve problems,” says Jennifer Kelly, Ph.D., psychologist.

“I think when people play video games and people watch videos and they see violence a lot, it just becomes natural to them and it just doesn’t seem bad anymore, and it really is,” says Donovan, 15.

Experts say parents can’t eliminate all media violence in a child’s life, but they can use a violent scene to teach kids about the reality of it.

“Talk about what you think happened to that person’s family … the mourning that occurred and how the parents or somebody else’s life could be changed as a result of this aggressive violent act,” says Kelly.

Tips for Parents

Advice from the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF):
Limit game-playing time to no more than one hour per day.
Play with your child to become familiar with the games.
Provide alternative ways for your child to spend time.
Require that homework and jobs be done first; use video game playing as a reward.
Do not put a video game set in a child’s room where he/she can shut the door and isolate himself/herself.
Talk about the content of the games.
Ask your video store to require parental approval before a violently rated video game can be rented by children.

When buying video games for your child, it is important to purchase games targeted to his/her age group. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates every video and computer game for age appropriateness (located on the front of the packaging) and, when appropriate, labels games with content descriptions. The ESRB’s current rating standard is as follows:

EC – Early Childhood (3 and older)
E – Everyone (6 and older)
E10+ – Everyone (10 and older)
T – Teens (13 and older)
M – Mature audiences (17 and older)
AO – Adults Only
RP – Rating Pending

Talk to other parents. Find out which games other parents like and dislike, as well as which games they let your child play when he/she visits their house. This is a good way to learn about the games that your child enjoys and those that other parents approve of, and to let other parents know which games you do not want your child playing. (ESRB)

Know your child. Different children handle situations differently. Regardless of age, if your child becomes aggressive or unsettled after playing violent video games, don’t buy games with violence in them. Likewise, if your child likes playing games with characters that look like him/her, purchase games with characters that fit the bill. (ESRB)


National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF)
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Kids Still Using Drugs by Connect with Kids

“It was just the thing, and everybody’s smoking and parties and raves and all kinds of … drugs.”
– Ebony, high school student

The billions of dollars spent on the war against drugs may have increased awareness and saved lives in this country, but the totalnumber of kids who use tobacco, alcohol and drugs is still staggering. A new Federal report showing how many kids begin experimenting every day is startling.

Every single day in America, 8,000 teenagers have their first drink; 4,000 try their first cigarette. More than 3,600 smoke marijuana for the first time, and 4,000 are introduced to inhalants, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs.

That’s just today; at midnight the count begins all over again.

“For a lot of kids, it’s just the opening up of adolescence. Suddenly they have money; they have disposable income. They have new peer groups that they are trying to measure up to,” says Armando Corpus, drug treatment counselor.

Ebony Marie was one teen trying to measure up.

“It was just the thing, and everybody’s smoking and parties and raves and all kinds of drugs,” says White.

At 13, Ebony started smoking cigarettes and then moved on to marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, and finally, methamphetamines. Within a few months she was a drug addict.

“I am [a drug addict] and I know I am because I love drugs,” says Ebony.

Experts say that a teen’s first experience with drugs or alcohol makes the decision to use drugs again a lot easier.

“There is a line that you cross, at least psychologically, that this is something I do; at least, this is something I experiment with,” says Corpus.

He says too many parents surrender to the philosophy that teen experimentation is inevitable, and then they are surprised.

“I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve come across who say, ‘All I knew was that he was smoking marijuana once in a while. I didn’t know he was doing cocaine. I didn’t know he was doing methamphetamine,’” says Corpus.

Now in recovery, Ebony has been off drugs for several months. She hopes forever.

“Because it doesn’t get you anywhere but jails, institutions and death,” says Ebony.

Tips for Parents

To help prevent your child from using illegal substances or turning to prescription drugs to get high, it's a good idea to begin discussing substance abuse with your child at an early age, and continue openly communicating about the issues as your child grows. (Nemours Foundation)

Take advantage of "teachable moments." If you and your child see a character on TV or in a movie who is smoking or using an illegal substance, talk to your child about what smoking and substance abuse does to a person's body, mind, life. (Nemours Foundation)

When your child becomes a teenager, you can address the issue in a more direct way. Talk about both the more immediate and the long-term health effects of substance abuse and tell your child where you stand. (Nemours Foundation)

If you suspect that your child may be abusing prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines or painkillers, it's a good idea to: (Nemours Foundation)

Lock your medicine cabinet, or keep medicines that could potentially be abused in a less accessible place.

Avoid stockpiling medicines. Having too many at your teen's disposal could make abusing them more tempting.

Keep track of how much is in each container in your medicine cabinet.
Keep an eye out not only for traditional-looking cough and cold remedies in your teen's room, but also strange-looking tablets.

Monitor your child's Internet usage. Be on the lookout for suspicious websites and emails that seem to be promoting the abuse of drugs, both legal and illegal.

It's also important to provide a warm and open environment at home where your child is encouraged to talk about feelings, and knows that he or she can bring you tricky questions and concerns without fear of judgment and punishment. (Nemours Foundation)


Nemours Foundation