Senator Clinton Speaks

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Hillary Clinton made some comments a while back about sex and violence in video games and elsewhere. She and a couple Republican senators want a big study on the influence of electronic media on kids.

Unfortunately, the media that reported this reported it as just an anti-video game screed, and it was more than that.

You can find the whole speech here. We think it would be educational to show you the parts of the speech that did have to do with reprint parts of this:

. . . When we start talking about raising children. . . . we start talking about the challenges of parenting today, and all of a sudden people are exchanging their deep concerns about losing control over the raising of their own children, ceding the responsibility of implicating values and behaviors to a multi-dimensional media marketplace that they have no control over and most of us don’t even really understand because it is moving so fast we can’t keep up with it.

. . . Parents who work long hours outside the home and single parents, whose time with their children is squeezed by economic pressures, are worried because they don’t even know what their children are watching and listening to and playing. So what’s a parent to do when at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the children may be at home from school but the parents aren’t home from work and they can turn on the TV and both on broadcast and cable stations see a lot of things which the parents wish they wouldn’t or wish they were sitting there to try to mediate the meaning of for their children. And probably one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard is about some of the video games, particularly Grand Theft Auto, which has so many demeaning messages about women and so encourages violent imagination and activities and it scares parents. I mean, if your child, and in the case of the video games, it’s still predominantly boys, but you know, they’re playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them, you know, that’s kind of hard to digest and to figure out what to say, and even to understand how you can shield your particular child from a media environment where all their peers are doing this.

Of course the biggest technological challenge facing parents and children today is the Internet. And today’s Kaiser Report goes a long way toward establishing how much media our children are consuming. And one thing we have known for a long time which is absolutely made clear in this report is that the content is overwhelmingly, astoundingly violent.

In the last four decades, the government and the public health community have amassed an impressive body of evidence identifying the impact of media violence on children. Since 1969, when President Johnson formed the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, the body of data has grown and grown and it leads to an unambiguous and virtually unanimous conclusion: media violence contributes to anxiety, desensitization, and increased aggression among children. When children are exposed to aggressive films, they behave more aggressively. And when no consequences are associated with the media aggression, children are even more likely to imitate the aggressive behavior.

Violent video games have similar effects. According to testimony by Craig Anderson before the Senate Commerce Committee in 2000, playing violent video games accounts for a 13 to 22% increase in teenagers’ violent behavior.

Now we know about 92% of children and teenagers play some form of video games. And we know that nine out of ten of the top selling video games contain violence.

And so we know that left to their own devices, you have to keep upping the ante on violence because people do get desensitized and children are going to want more and more stimulation. And unfortunately in a free market like ours, what sells will become even more violent, and the companies will ratchet up the violence in order to increase ratings and sales figures. It is a little frustrating when we have this data that demonstrates there is a clear public health connection between exposure to violence and increased aggression that we have been as a society unable to come up with any adequate public health response.

We know from today’s study that in a typical day, 47 percent of children 8 to 18 will go online. And the Internet is a revolutionary tool that offers an infinite world of opportunity for children to learn about the world around them. But when unmonitored kids access the Internet, it can also be an instrument of enormous danger. Online, children are at greatly increased risk of exposure to pornography, identify theft, and of being exploited, if not abused or abducted, by strangers.

According to the Kaiser study, 70% of teens between 15 and 17 say they have accidentally come across pornography on the web, and 23 percent report that this happens often. More disturbing is that close to one-third of teens admit to lying about their age to access a website.

Tools that are available to parents can be highly effective in reducing minors’ exposure to inappropriate material. But no filter is 100% effective; they all allow some amount of inappropriate content to be viewed by children. And when children are more tech-savvy than their parents, as is often the case, it kind of becomes a game and a challenge to get around the filtering.

One could make the argument that with some additional research the case will be conclusive that we are causing long-term public health damage to many, many children and therefore to society. You know, lots of times the response comes back to me, “You know my kid doesn’t get all of that, my kid’s fine.” Well, obviously, certain children are more vulnerable than other children. Children in situations of vulnerability because of family circumstances or neighborhood circumstances may very well be more prey to not only the impact of a multi-media environment but also to individuals who exploit that environment. So yes, we are all of different vulnerabilities, physically and emotionally and psychologically but the evidence is conclusive that on balance the exposure to this much media and particularly to the violent content of it is not good for children and teenagers. And so what I’m hoping is that all we can come together. If there were an epidemic sweeping through our children of some kind of SARS of some other kind of infectious disease, we would all band together and figure out what to do to protect our children.

So I think we have to begin to be more aware of what our children are experiencing and do what we can to encourage media habits that allow kids to be kids, and that helps them to grow up into healthy adults who someday will be in the position to worry about what comes next in the media universe because we have no idea what parents in ten, twenty, thirty years will be coping with. All we can do is to try to set some standards and values now and then fulfill them to the best of our ability.

Just to give you some thinking you might not otherwise be exposed to, and maybe, if appropriate, for some, you ought to ask yourself, “Just why do I like such games so much?”



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