Katie Couric’s fear-mongering and irresponsible video game report chose fear over education
It’s easy to sell fear, and there are many clever tricks used to make people feel afraid when they’re watching a report on any topic, much less a hobby that’s as often misunderstood as video games. Katie Couric recently put together a one-hour look at the dangers of video games, and the result is as cringe-inducing, intellectually dishonest, and as reactionary as you’d expect.
Kotaku does a great job of breaking down the segment, and I don’t have that much to add to that discussion. We know that the majority of Americans play video games in some form, and we know that the majority of the games released are not rated Mature. Video games, as an art form, are not a synonym for Call of Duty or Halo. It used to be some of these reports at least put the word “Violent” before the words Video Games, but now it seems like we’re expected to simply assume all video games are violent.
So the ignorance, lack of perspective, and use of cheap tactics to demonize video games are bad enough, but the real problem of these reports is the fact that video games aren’t going away; parents need to become more comfortable around them, not less. I’ve grown up around video games, and I cover the video game industry for my career, and I often struggle with the issues that come from raising children in a world where violent media is so prevalent, even though I sometimes take advantage of that fact for my own gain.
News reports that explain how to use the parental features on your consoles, or explain how to properly lock down an iPod so kids can’t download games without your approval or make purchases, or even a quick primer on the ratings system… these are things that would do real, measurable good in helping parents deal with the video games in their home.
One lesson we learned early after my son began describing a game he played we didn’t approve of? Be sure to talk to other parents about the games they let their children play, and ask that the M-rated games be put away while your child is over.
Even better? I'd love to see a news segment on how a controller works, or one that encourages parents to ask their children to explain how each game is played. We don’t need parents being more scared of the games in their home, we need to get them in front of the television, portable system, or phone or tablet with their children to talk about the games as they’re being played.
Video games are like sex in the parental sense: they are something your kids are going to do whether you like it or not, so the best response is education, frank discussion, and making sure they’re comfortable talking to you about things. Preaching fear and abstinence only leads to bad outcomes.
So the greater media dropped the ball once again, and now Couric is asking “outraged gamers” to participate in a future show. Don’t take the bait; getting people enraged and then profiting from the froth is a shameful way to handle news.
The best way to fight back is to pick a fun game, and play it with your child. Participate in their lives. Video games are a great time to talk to your children about what’s going on in their heads or at school, because you’re both looking at the television, not at each other. It’s like talking in the car; it’s easier to be candid. These are things I’ve said before, but they are worth repeating.
The answer to violence, depression, and negative behavior is not getting rid of video games, it’s simply taking a greater interest in your children. Fight the causes, not the symptoms. It’s time people like Katie Couric stopped relying on cheap stories to get ratings, and instead tried to help the people she claims to care about.