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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'Grand Theft Childhood'?

The release this week of the latest version of Grand Theft Auto (IV) sparks a new flood of headlines about 1) how the hot videogame industry is headed for the stratosphere (USATODAY) and 2) videogame violence. Interestingly, a $1.5 million study by two Harvard Medical School professors funded by the US Justice Department found that the connection between violent videogame play and violent videogame players "may be more tenuous than previously thought," the Harvard Crimson reports. The study resulted in a new book by Profs. Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner, Grand Theft Childhood, which says "videogames do not affect all children equally." The Crimson adds that "Olson said that gaming - including playing 'M'-rated games - is such a widespread teenage phenomenon that it should not be considered abnormal." What is abnormal, the authors suggest, is excessive videogame play. They advise a balance of gaming and other activities. A thoughtful post about Kutner and Olson's research in the OpenEducation.net blog suggests that parents play with their kids as "a great way to keep the conversation going and help you navigate the game. Parents may initially find the skills and dexterity very challenging but abandonment is not the answer." Why? Well, for one thing, the study cites the view of Michael Jellinek, M.D., professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, "that a parent’s awkwardness 'can be used to your advantage when it comes to strengthening relationships with your children'.” Here's the Chicago Tribune's meaty coverage of the swirl around GTA IV's release, Chicago-style.

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