Concern over kids and video violence

A spate of recent violent incidents involving young people has prompted warnings of the need to re-examine the impact of television and video games on copycat behaviour.

Adisak Palitpolkarnpim, head of Child Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention Research Centre at Ramathibodi Hospital, said two news stories about death and violence involving young people this week gave added reason for concern.

On Sunday, Oct 25, an eight-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree. She suffered lack of oxygen to the brain for an estimated 10 minutes. She was rushed to Ramathibodi Hospital and was still under intensive care while doctors sought to establish how much damage had been done to her brain.

Her father said his daughter spent a lot of time watching two TV shows depicted hanging. According to her friends, the girl said she wanted to play at hanging herself.

On Tuesday, a 14-year-old boy with a history of autism stabbed his sleeping mother to death after he was reproached about his severe addiction to video games. He also stabbed his elder sister who was trying to stop him attacking their mother.

Assoc Prof Dr Adisak said attacks on parents by game addicted youths also occurred in other countries. Addiction to computer games, or the internet, was considered a type of mental illness.

The game that the boy played regularly is Point Blank, a violent online first-person shooter. When coupled with his existing medical condition, he felt compelled to carry out the attack, the doctor said. 

Children with "fragile" mental states were more likely to imitate what they see, and this was worrisome given the increasing amount of violence shown on television.

"It's time to discuss again whether television programmes with violent scenes should be aired only after 10pm," Dr Adisak said.

Somsak Lolekha, president of the Royal College of Pediatricians of Thailand, said media and television now play a larger role in children's lives due to easy accessibility. Children also showed a higher degree of addiction to computer games, which resulted in poorer academic performance.

He suggested parents give their children guidance on TV programmes, video games and internet content and limit their time on these media while encouraging more outdoor activities such as playing sport.

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