Media Violence Kills Kids, Army Psychologist Says

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Violent video games and hours of exposure to violence on television anesthetizes children to violence and makes them more likely to kill, a retired lieutenant colonel who taught psychology at West Point told CNSNews.com.

The result of depicting violence as entertainment "is a phenomenon that functions much like AIDS, which I call AVIDS - Acquired Violence Immune Deficiency Syndrome," said retired Lt. Col. David Grossman, who is visiting Washington to promote the week of October 18 through 22 as "Turn Off the Violence - Open a Book Week."

"AIDS has never killed anybody. It destroys your immune system, and then other diseases that shouldn't kill you become fatal. Television violence by itself does not kill you. It destroys your violence immune system and conditions you to derive pleasure from violence," said Grossman.

"And once you are at close range with another human being, and it's time for you to pull that trigger, Acquired Violence Immune Deficiency Syndrome can destroy your midbrain resistance," said Grossman, who acted as lead trainer for counselors after two boys shot dead four students and a teacher at a local middle school in his hometown of Jonesboro, Ark., in March.

"The real radical extremists in the U.S. aren't in the National Rifle Association," he said. "The NRA doesn't claim that the Second Amendment gives them the right to market guns to kids.

"No, the real sickos in America are the people who will fight to the death, in the name of the First Amendment, to defend the right of kids to practice blowing off people's heads in the local video arcade," Grossman said.

Grossman, who co-authored Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill with Gloria DeGaetano, also criticizes the Army, which he says uses video and computer combat simulations to prepare soldiers to kill. Video and computer games, some of which simulate return fire, are more effective in preparing its users to kill than human-shaped targets or bull's-eyes, he said.

The Washington-based Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), an umbrella group that represents the entertainment software industry, told CNSNews.com that only a small proportion of the video games marketed in the United States were violent, and that it was the business of parents to see to it that they were kept out of the hands of children.

"The IDSA has created a rating system that has been called one of the best in the country," spokesman Neel Lattimore told CNSNews.com. "Not only do we rate our games and give detailed information on what the content is, but we're toning down the advertising and making sure the advertising carries this information."

A new advertising code makes the manufacturers of these games responsible for appropriate marketing so that the small number of games that are rated "M" for mature aren't accessible to young people, Lattimore said.

"This is to prevent misrepresenting the product so that something that looks like a kid's game has people blowing heads off, with blood and gore," he said.

Lattimore challenged the assertion that the Army video training programs are used as a substitute for live firing exercises or that they're sold to soldiers as entertainment.

"They're created for strategy purposes," he said. "They show people what to do in combat situations - how to move, where to go."

The U.S. entertainment software industry has emerged as a major contributor to the U.S. economy in recent years, growing by over 25 percent a year for the past four years and reaching $5.5 billion in U.S. sales alone in 1998. Software sales in the U.S. in 1999 may reach $6.5 billion, according to industry analysts.

The industry contributed over $16 billion to the U.S. economy in 1996, employing over 50,000 workers in high-paying jobs. These figures are on the increase. The U.S. entertainment software industry is one of the core copyright industries that are collectively responsible for over $60 billion in foreign sales and exports, more than any other industry sector, including agriculture, automobiles or aerospace, industry analysts report.