The mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. set off a fresh debate about the effects of media violence, including violent video games, on children.
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre put the blame for the incident squarely on the entertainment media, calling it a “callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.”
President Barack Obama called for research into the relationship between “video games, media images, and violence.”
TV and film executives, along with leaders in the gaming industry met with Vice President Joe Biden on the issue, though people in their own industries criticized them for it, saying the very act of meeting with Biden signaled – incorrectly - that there was something wrong with their products.
In the aftermath of the shooting, some schools have been disciplining kids for playing with toy guns.
A five-year-old girl was suspended from a kindergarten in Mount Carmel, Pa. for a “terrorist threat,” after talking with a classmate about shooting each other with bubbles from a Hello Kitty bubble blower.
In Massachusetts, five-year-old Joseph Cardosa faced suspension after reportedly building a toy gun out of Lego bricks and making shooting noises.
Longtime child development expert Nancy Carlsson-Paige (who is also the mother of artist Kyle Damon and actor Matt Damon) told Here & Now’s Robin Young that she thinks making toy guns out of Lego bricks is a healthy way to play, saying she has fond memories of her Annie Oakely hat and double cap guns with which she and her friends played war games.
Children need to play good guy versus bad guy games, she says, which is why she is for war games. But Carlsson-Paige says in order for those war games to be healthy, they should be something children make up.
Carlsson-Paige says the aggressive marketing of toys connected to movies and video games harms children’s play, because they are given characters, weapons and plots – in short, leaving them very little room for engaging in creative play.
Carlsson-Paige also says that toy makers routinely market toys from movies and video games rated “mature” to kids as young as four, and she wants laws to stop the the sale and marketing of adult-level toys to young children.
As for video games, Carlsson-Paige said, “I’m not for censorship. I’m not talking about the 22 year old playing Call of Duty. I don’t want to take video games away from adults. I just want them kept from children.”
Jeremy Hobson joins Robin Young as co-host of Here & Now in its new 2-hour format, from WBUR and NPR.
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