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OK-Expert Speaks on Media Violence

By Thomas Larson
Government Information Tracking
Staff Writer

Retired 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 Summit.

Grossman is the author of the 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 DeGaetano.

Grossman, 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 and aggression.

"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."

Grossman 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.

"I'm 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."

Grossman 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.

He 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.

"The 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.

"What 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."

Grossman 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.

Grossman 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.

"For 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.

"If 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 harmful."

Grossman 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.

"We 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.

According 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."

"You 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."

Grossman 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


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