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Nation-wide meeting in US discusses impact of media violence on kids


24 April, 2007: It was a very apt time to hold a meeting of this kind as the government officials and entertainment industry officials from across the United States gathered in Indianapolis on the subject of violence in the media and its impact on children and crime.

Bart Peterson, Mayor of Indianapolis and president of the National League of Cities, which sponsored the event, said at the meeting, held on April 17, 2007, that the bizarre killings at the Virginia Tech University, which took place a day before, may have no direct connection to media violence.

But the gruesome incident certainly provided a somber and urgent backdrop for discussion about a violence-saturated culture.

In recent years, Bart Peterson said, our communities have witnessed far too many incidents of extreme violence by and against children and youth. Certainly a number of factors contribute to these disturbing trends, but a prominent concern that is increasingly capturing the attention of both researchers and policymakers is the heightened exposure of children to graphic violence in video games, television, movies and music, Peterson stressed.

The summit was inspired by Mayor Peterson’s concern about violence in media, especially in video games. After taking office, he has been pushing for a city ordinance restricting the sale of violent video games, but the ordinance was later overturned by a federal appeals court.

A recent report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that children under 18 are being exposed to violent media.

The aim of the gathering at Indianapolis was to inspire a dialogue and enhance awareness about media violence in cities across the United States. Mayor Peterson said government regulation would not work because courts will not uphold censorship.

Hence, Peterson said, more needs to be done to promote self-regulation using public pressure on the producers and sellers of violent media.

Media experts said children are exposed to an average of 6.5 hours of television every day. By the time they finish grade school, a child will have seen about 8,000 killings on television, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Patricia Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, said the industry’s self-regulation efforts – like ratings, public awareness campaigns and sales training – are working to keep violent games away from children.

However, David Koch, vice-president of the non-profit Association for Family Interactive Media, said he did not believe the industry could regulate itself any more than the tobacco industry could. He said the industry often sells the video games before ratings are released.

The ratings system has been broken and we need an independent board, David Koch demanded.

A mother who attended the meeting said she is often overwhelmed by the choices and competing information about entertainment products for her two children, aged 17 and 10. “When something happens, like what happened at the Virginia Tech University, we get together and shake our heads. What we need is a discussion of the steps we can take to empower ourselves as parents,” she said.



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