Australia New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione is taking a lot heat for comments he made recently blaming the rise of teen knife-related crimes on playing violent video games. Scipione recently told The Daily Telegraph that teens were being desensitized to violence by playing violent video games that reward them for "killing and raping people." Obviously a tired trope related to Grand Theft Auto spewed by politicians.
In a recent story in news.com.au, Dr. Christopher Ferguson, associate professor of psychology and communication at the University of Texas, said that the Police Commissioner's comments were "irresponsible" and a knee-jerk reaction to a rise in knife-related crimes. He also said that Scipione had "no idea what he was talking about."
"In fact, in most countries youth violence has reached 40 year lows during the video game epoch," said Ferguson, who added that Scipione ignored data that showed no increases in youth violence.
Even his own government disagrees with him: a March report by the Australian Institute of Criminology showed that crime rates had fallen across most major categories; car theft had dropped over 60 percent over the past decade and homicides had dropped by 27 percent between 1996 and 2010. A government report in 2010 also came to the conclusion that there was no correlation between violence in the real world and playing violent video games.
"Although many video games do allow players to explore a range of moral choices both good and bad, they do not typically set up rigid reward structures to reward antisocial behaviour," Ferguson said. "Many games have considerable consequences for the moral choices players make."
Dr. Jeffrey Brand, a Professor of Communication and Media at Bond University, echoed Ferguson, saying that the Police Commissioner ignored several major studies on playing video games and violence that found no correlation between the two activities. He also ignored the ruling in Brown v. EMA, which weighed research from both schools of thought on video game violence. The court sided with researchers such as Ferguson, who did not find a link between playing violent games and real-world violent acts.
Brand also points out that most Australians play video games, which means that criminals and law-abiding citizens are in the same group. Criminals use phones, read books and watch television too. Trying to find causation when the majority of the populace engages in an activity is highly problematic...
"If Commissioner Scipione is part of the one third of Australians that don't play video games it may be useful for him to get to know them before making those claims, because it might help the police in their work to better understand the medium or dismiss it as potential cause of violence," said Brand. "Or if they believe it is harmful they can more tightly focus on that basis for concern."
Source: Herald Sun