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Pre-reading: Attitudes towards violence

Discuss the following quote from the text:
“My guess is that kids who already have problems with aggression
are at higher risk for being affected by violent video games, such
as bullies or bully victims”.

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Words in context

Vís í nýggjum vindeyga
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Lawrence Kutner & Cheryl K. Olson: Attitudes Toward Violence

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Another charge often made against violence in video games and other media is that it may desensitize children to real violence. The fear is that constant exposure to gory virtual violence, without seeing the consequences that would accompany such violence in real life, could make children less sensitive to suffering caused by violence and reduce their empathy for its victims. They might fail to help people in distress. Thirteen-year-old Alex put it this way:

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If you watch lots of violent movies, you can get it into your head that violence isn‘t a very bad thing, because you see it all the time, and your sense of it is kind of dulled. So when you see someone in a movie get their arm cut off or something, then you don‘t, like, cry for an hour, ‚cause you‘ve seen it before. If you‘ve never seen a movie like that, you‘d probably be really sad, but after [you‘ve seen] ten....

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Desensitization is not always a bad thing. For example, it‘s used in psychotherapy all the time to help people overcome phobias and disturbing thoughts. Jeanne Funk, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, adds, „It‘s also something that occurs on a daily basis; it helps us manage life stresses. If we didn‘t get desensitized to tragedies, we couldn‘t function.“

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Funk became concerned that violent media could subtly desensitize children: „Over time, we could develop a group of kids who won‘t care about other people. Playing violent video games could be one risk factor.“

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A related concern is that violent video games could make physical aggression a more appealing or first-choice solution for personal conflicts. Constantly practicing aggressive behavior through video games might add to the risk.

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Picture a twelve-year-old playing a first-person shooter game, fighting soldiers, aliens or zombies. The player advances through a dim corridor where enemies may lurk around a corner, pop out from alcoves or come up from behind. To stay „alive,“ the player must be hypervigilant for attacks and be ready with an almost automatic aggressive response. Researchers such as Funk are concerned that constant repetition of these behaviors in violent games could lead to the development of „aggressive scripts“: automatic responses to certain types of situations. At question is whether the conditioned response of pressing a button in a game will generalize to reacting violently in the real world.

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In theory, a nonthreatening real-life event, such as an accidental bump in a school hallway, could be seen as a threat and trigger a scripted aggressive reaction. A child who has been desensitized to violence by seeing it over and over in video games or movies might find it harder to suppress an automatic aggressive response.

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To investigate these concerns, Funk conducted a series of studies with more than three hundred children in elementary and high school. For example, in one study, children filled out surveys to check their attitudes toward violence, level of empathy and exposure to violence in real life. Funk also asked how many hours per week children played video games, watched television and movies and used the Internet, and their favored type of content for each. She concluded that exposure to video game and movie violence was associated with stronger proviolence attitudes, but only video game violence was linked to lower empathy.

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Funk would like to see more longitudinal studies that look at how factors including age, gender, personality and intelligence may interact with exposure to violent media. „My guess is that kids who already have problems with aggression are at higher risk for being-affected by violent video games, such as bullies or bully victims,“ she notes.

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Our own survey included a set of eight questions designed to explore children‘s beliefs about aggression (e.g., „If people do something to make me really mad, they deserve to be beaten up“) and whether they consider alternatives to fighting (e.g., „I try to talk out a problem instead of fighting“). We found that boys who regularly played at least one M-rated game had significantly lower belief in the use of nonviolent strategies and significantly more positive perceptions of aggression. This was also true for girls who played M-rated games. Again, we can‘t say that M-rated games created these attitudes, nor do we know the real-world significance of this.

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Michael Jellinek, MD, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, sees little evidence of children being desensitized by violent media. “I‘ve seen kids who were exposed to domestic violence learn to numb themselves or to dissociate. I‘ve seen kids in gangs learn to minimize it. Most kids, when they see someone injured on the field or when they come into the emergency room, there‘s a whole different tone – very realistic – to how they feel about that than when someone‘s hurt in a video game.“

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Task 4.4.1

Scanning

  • What is it people fear might happen to children if they play too many violent video games?
  • The psychologist Jeanne Funk has two concerns about violent video games. Which?
  • What are “aggressive scripts”, and how do they develop in children and young people?
  • What did Funk’s investigation show about the exposure to video game and movie violence?
  • What did the writers’ own survey show?
  • Why doesn’t Michael Jellinek think that children become desensitized by violent media?
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Modal verbs

Translate the following sentences into Faroese.

  • It may desensitize children to real violence
  • Without seeing the consequences that would accompany such violence in real life
  • Constant exposure could make children less sensitive to suffering
  • They might fail to help people in distress
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Glossary

charge

n skuldseting

gory

l blóðugur

reduce

[re’duce] s minka

distress

[di’stress] n neyð

appealing

[ap’pealing] l dragandi

first-choice

n sum tú velur fyrst

solution

[so’lution] n loysn

dim

l skýmligur

lurk

s lúra

alcove

n krókur

hypervigilant

l ovurvarin

repetition

[repe’tition] n endurtøka

conditioned response

[con’ditioned re’sponse] treytað viðbragd

generalize

vb algilda, flyta beinleiðis

bump

n samanstoytur

trigger

s elva til

investigate

[in’vestigate] s kanna

conduct

[con’duct] s stíla fyri

elementary school

[ele’mentary school] n grundskúli til fimta flokk

favored

l best dámdur

longitudinal studies

[longi’tudinal studies] n kanningar yvir longri tíð

interact

[inter’act] s ávirka hvønn annan

bullies or bully victims

n happarar ella happaraoffur

M-rated

M = mature. Spæl egnað fyri persónar yvir 17 ár. Sí www.esrb.org

significantly

[sig’nificantly] h munandi, týðandi

perception

[per’ception] n fatan

pediatrics

[pedi’atrics] n barnasjúkufrøði

adolescent

[ado’lescent] l ungdómur, ung 

domestic violence

[do’mestic violence] harðskapur við hús

dissociate

[dis’sociate] s halda hvørt frá øðrum

emergency room

[e’mergency room] n skaðastova

desensitize

s ókvæmisgera

scripted

l fyrireikaður

ISBN: 9788761657954. © Rithøvundarnir, Systime A/S og Nám 2011