Speaks on Media Violence
Government Information Tracking Staff
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, a leading expert
on media violence and youth, conducted CLEET training on
Thursday in conjunction with the Governor's Second Annual
Safe School Summit. Grossman also presented a program, "Teaching
Our Kids to Kill," during the evening portion of the Governor's
Grossman is the author of the Pulitzer-nominated
book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to
Kill in War and Society. His most recent book, Stop
Teaching Our Kids to Kill, is co-authored by Gloria
a former psychology professor at West Point, teaches law
enforcement officers around the country, as well as the
FBI, Texas Rangers and Green Berets about the psychology
of killing. He also teaches medical and mental health professions
how to deal with and prevent killing. He has been an expert
witness at several murder trials, including Timothy McVeigh's,
and has written several encyclopedia articles on violence
"What I'm going to teach [at the CLEET training] is the
psychology and physiology of combat," Grossman said. "I'm
going to teach about the universal human phobia--interpersonal
human aggression--and how toxic and destructive and corrosive
it is. It is the factor most likely to cause a post-traumatic
response. I'm going to teach them about what happens physiologically
when the heart goes above 175 beats per minute--the forebrain
shuts down and the midbrain turns on."
explained the forebrain performs the intellectual functions
of the brain. The human midbrain, which is indistinguishable
from that of an animal, operates on instant and stimulus-response.
going to teach them about how the media is enabling killing
and how it manifests itself on the street and how we can
connect the dots from the law enforcement side of the picture,"
he continued. "I'm going to teach them about post-traumatic
stress disorder. The average cop has two to four times the
chance of dying from their own hand as they do from criminal
gunfire. I'm going to teach them surviving survivor guilt
and enabling to kill and restraining killing."
is on a crusade to limit children's access to violent media,
particularly video games. He said he does not want or expect
to end violence in the media--he just wants to see children
denied access to the violence. "Simply enforce the rating
systems," he said.
said that a major university recently conducted a study
in which researchers performed state of the art brain scans
on children participating in different activities--reading
a book, hearing a story, watching a violent movie and playing
a violent video game.
development of the brain when you play the violent video
games and the impact on the wiring of the brain when you
play the violent video games is stunning," he said. "It's
totally different from any other medium. Instead of being
the passive receiver of human death and suffering, now you
actively inflict it upon another human being.
we've got is an industry selling a product that they themselves
say is for adults only," he continued. "You've got a society
that wants to treat that product like you would tobacco
or alcohol or guns or cars or sex."
said the video game industry only wants voluntary ratings,
but voluntary ratings don't work. "Try any other industry
that has a product that is harmful to children and put those
words in their mouths and see how it sounds," he said.
also explained the differences between playing a violent
video game and playing with toy weapons. "The AMA [American
Medical Association] has not proven toy guns to be a major
factor in youth violence," he said, and added that with
toy weapons, actually hurting someone was always punished
by a parent or adult.
five-thousand years of recorded history, we've hit each
other with wooden swords, but now when I play violent video
games in a virtual reality--a hyper-reality--I blow my playmate's
head off with explosions and blood countless thousands of
times. Do I get in trouble? No--I get points," Grossman
said. "This is truly pathological play. Adults can do it--adults
can have pornography, tobacco, alcohol, guns, sex, cars,
but this is another of those products that to put in hands
of children represents a stunning abuse of that child and
of our responsibility to protect children.
you are going to sell a product to kids," he continued,
"it is your responsibility to prove that product is safe
for kids, not our responsibility to prove it's dangerous.
As far as this product goes, the industry confirms it's
not for kids when they put a mature rating on it... As far
as scholarly data goes, last July, the AMA, Surgeon General,
the American Academy of Psychiatrics and the American Academy
of Child and Adolescent Psychology made a joint statement
to Congress. They said media violence causes violence in
children, and the violent video games appear to be particularly
said his assertions are not only backed by scientific study,
but by history. Grossman said World War II soldiers were
trained using bull's-eye targets and very few of those soldiers
ever fired their rifles. On the other hand, as the military
started using other forms of training, soldiers began using
their rifles more often.
understand instinctively that if you want a human being
to kill, you have to put them in a killing simulator," he
said, adding that violent video games are very similar to
military combat simulators.
to Grossman, the Center for Successful Parenting in Indiana
performed a study in which they took a group of Boy Scouts
who had never used a real pistol. First, they had kids demonstrate
their proficiency with point-and-shoot video games. The
children were then given a 9mm pistol.
"The ones who were experts with the point-and-shoot video
games were stunningly better with the 9mm pistol the first
time you put it in their hands," Grossman said. Furthermore,
during a second round of shooting actual weapons, the kids
who were proficient with the video games improved significantly,
while the others did not improve, according to Grossman.
Grossman said the military calls this "transition fire."
learn in the trainer, and then you go to the real thing
and you're a lot better because of the trainer," he said.
"But after you've done your transition fire, all that simulated
training immediately translates into the real thing."
compares youth violence to heart disease; he recognizes
that violent media is only one of many factors involved.
Other factors, according to Grossman, are child abuse, gangs,
drugs, poverty, breakdown of family structure, availability
of weapons and lack of moral training. However, Grossman
feels that violent media is the most preventable factor.
"Around the world, if you take existing variables in the
equation and you add this new variable, media violence,
the result is an explosion of violent crime," he said. "It
takes three things to kill--a weapon, the skill and the
will to kill," he said. "We've demonstrated that this instrument
provides two out of three."
© GIT, Inc. 2001