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We are Experimenting with our Kids

Dr. George Drinka (2012)

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In a recent show aired on NPR in San Francisco, Michael Krasny interviewed three prominent authors who have written extensively on the subject of media violence and its impact on children.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook catastrophe, Jim Steyer of Media Matters stressed the point that we live in a culture of violence, and the school shootings are a sad phenomenon that underscores this reality.

The other two interviewed were university scholars who have published numerous studies and literature reviews on the subject of media violence. Dr. Christopher Ferguson of Texas A&M claimed that his and his colleagues’ studies have shown no causal connection between children watching media violence and their subsequently becoming involved in actual violence. Dr. Brad Bushman of Ohio State University maintained that the literature was ample and clear: immersion of children in media violence seems to lead to greater aggression in children, along with greater desensitization to real violence and greater fear of violence.

Dr. Bushman compared Dr. Ferguson’s position to that of global warming deniers in the academic community. He stated that about 95% of scholars agree with his position and only 5% with that of Dr Ferguson. Dr Ferguson disagreed with this characterization and stated that, as time passes, his position will be proven correct.

Though I very much agree with Dr. Bushman’s position on this matter, I disagreed with him on one of his major points. He stated that in studies done with children and adolescents, experimenters cannot induce their young subjects to first play violence video games or watch large amounts of violent media and them give them guns or knives and see what they will do with these weapons. This would of course be unethical on the part of the experimenters, he states.

I disagree with this statement. In fact we are as a society doing this experiment on our children daily in our communities. We allow our children to be immersed in hour upon hour of media violence and we also allow more or less unlimited access of our children to guns and rifles and even semi-automatics. So was the case with the Sandy Hook shootings. As forensic experts have made clear, in many of the mass killings of late, young people who “trained” for their killings sprees by playing hours of violent media games. Presumably they not only improved their eye-hand coordination as video games seem to do, per various studies, but also they desensitized themselves to violence and probably heightened their physiological arousal levels. All of this can be seen as prequel to the shooting sprees.

So we are doing this experiment on our kids on a societal level, and things are not going well for the society.


Dr. George Drinka, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the author of The Birth of Neurosis: Myth, Malady and the Victorians (Simon & Schuster) and thought he would be a great fit for your site. His new book, When the Media Is the Parent, is a culmination of his work with children, his scholarly study of works on the media and American cultural history, and his dedication to writing stories that reveal the humanity in us all. Dr. Drinka has an insightful blog on Psychology Today where he comments on the obstacles the media brings to children and the parents that raise them.

For More Information or to Cantact Dr. Drinka: McKenzie Morrell Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. | 155 Post Road East, Suite 8 | Westport, CT 06880.

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