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CHILD ENTERTAINMENT: SEVEN POINTS TO CONSIDER CAREFULLY

 

ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ENGLISH

 

by Eleni Androulaki, M.A.

 

One of the most important signs of our cultural standard is the way we treat, educate and guide our children. Child education is indeed an essential responsibility not only of parents and teachers but also of every person who loves and cares about the others. This responsibility to educate children presupposes, together with love and sensitivity, alertness and the appropriate awareness. No individual concerned about children has the right to be unaware of or indifferent to what happens in the children᾿s world. The present article deals with one aspect of education, that of child entertainment, and intends to inform about what is targeted on the young with the aim of harming them and distorting their minds. The seven points analysed below constitute a summary of my research on the books, comics, films and games which prevail in the child and adolescent world today. At the same time these seven points should be considered carefully, as their existence makes any child entertainment “product” which incorporates them detrimental to our children.

 

1. Violence and Terror

It is evident nowadays that the promotion of violence and terror is the primary goal of many children᾿s films, books and games, so that we can say that our children receive an overwhelming instruction in violence. Research has shown that by the age of 18 the average American child will have viewed about 200,000 acts of violence on television alone[1].

According to the American Psychological Association (APA)[2], which is the largest scientific association of psychologists in the world, and the American Academy of Pediatrics[3], violence on the media and on videogames:

a) increases children᾿s fear of becoming victims as well as their fear of the world around them,

b) makes them less sensitive to violence and to victims of violence. Children who are exposed to violence become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others because they learn to consider violence as something acceptable,

c) teaches them to solve their differences in an aggressive way,

d) increases aggressive and antisocial behaviour, something confirmed by over 1,000 studies.

As an example, APA mentions the study done at Pennsylvania State University where researchers observed 100 preschool children and concluded that “Children who watch violent shows, even just funny cartoons, were more likely to hit out at their playmates, argue, disobey class rules, leave tasks unfinished and were less willing to wait for things”[4].

Moreover, Dr Leonard Eron and his associates at the University of Illinois found that children who watched many hours of television violence when they were in elementary school tended to also show a higher level of aggressive behaviour when they became teenagers. It is notable that Dr Eron observed these youngsters up to the age of 30 and he found that µthe ones who᾿d watched a lot of TV when they were eight years old were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults[5].

In Greece the President of the Academy for the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents, Ms Alexandra Roussou, states that “the violent acts of children and adolescents are directly proportionate to the hours of television viewing and the violent scenes they see on television... Children see nightmares when they sleep. Then they identify with the attacker and they go out and beat others and kill”[6].

Alarming is the fact that violence increases the appetite for more violence in entertainment as well as in real life[7] and also the fact that most often the consequences of violence are not shown, let alone that the common, tragic message is conveyed: the person who behaves violently is rewarded!

The child, therefore, gradually gets used to violence, becomes desensitised and considers violence as something natural and good, something that provides entertainment, too. And this does not just occur, it is systematically imposed on our children by means of special methods. The methods used to make children addicted to violence are the same used in the military to prepare soldiers to kill according to military psychologist Dave Grossman[8], namely:

a) Brutalization – putting through a programme of verbal abuse to break down one set of values and installing a new set that makes violence acceptable. Let us think how early in life do children learn that violence is a natural part of life, since even the “good” heroes of cartoons fiercely beat one another.

b) Classical conditioning – associating a stimulus with a response according to a specific reinforcement schedule, such as violence linked to pleasure. During the time they rest, the time they have their favourite dish or drink children watch films of violence, so violence becomes part of a pleasing routine.

c) Operant conditioning – developing a conditioned response that relies on a reward for an initiated action. Let us point out here that almost all videogames have the characteristics of operant conditioning, since they reward acts of violence with high scores. And in some videogames and computer games the player cannot continue playing the game, unless he steals or kills.

d) Role models – identifying with the drill sergeant who personifies violence and aggression. This method aims at the players/viewers identifying with fierce heroes, monsters, wizards, witches or for example with “good” Pokemon, which continually attack, fight furiously, destroy, torture others and so on.

Most scientists, however, point out that parents have an enormous power to reduce the effects of violence if they[9]:

1. limit the amount of time children spend watching television and playing videogames,

2. choose carefully films, books and games for their children,

3. watch at least one episode of the programmes their children watch,

4. teach children that real-life violence has consequences,

5. teach children alternatives to violence,

6. outright ban any programmes they find too offensive.

 

2. Monstrous ugliness, horror and morbid imagination

The second problem is that during the last decade in Greece our children have been overwhelmed by ugly and grotesque creatures, monsters with ghastly, repulsive looks, which would naturally cause aversion. In sketch pads preschool children are now encouraged to colour monstrous babies, cauldrons, three-headed dogs, fierce dragons[10], children running up and down terrified by monsters[11], and of course for older children there are books with instructions on how to draw monsters[12].

In the cartoon “Digimon”[13] we hear the following introductory dialogue:

- Koramon, what on earth are you?

- I am a Digimon, a digital monster from the digital world... When a digimon becomes your friend it will do everything for you.

So children make friends with all kinds of monsters, with a more or less demonic appearance, which, besides the violence they impose on children because of their frightening looks, besides the aesthetic loss they bring about, are – according to some researchers – also linked with “literal physical demonic entities that appeared to civilizations of the past”[14]. In any case, what follows this familiarization with these hideous creatures is that children “train” them to fight better (the Pokemon heroes are called “Pokemon trainers” because they do nothing else but have the little monsters fight against one another, so that they can win the prize of the best “trainer”) or conduct duels with monsters. One can first watch monster duels in cartoons (e.g. “Yu-Gi-Oh”) and then play with the Yu-Gi-Oh card game, which is advertised as “a card-battling game in which players pit different mystical creatures against one another, in wild, magical duels! Packed with awesome monsters and mighty spell-cards”[15].

I wonder who wishes or even tolerates his/her child᾿s character to be formed in this morbidity and perversion. Is it not through mental images and imagination that we are led to acts? And who can deny, as a consequence of the above, the emergence of a society of sick people? Because by the time children grow older and reach their teens they will have been prepared to consent to even worse things, as shown below.

 

3. The War against Family and Traditional Values

Let us think about a few characteristic examples of “good” heroes/heroines:

* Harry Potter lives without parents, his guardians are cruel and bad and he is totally uncontrolled in a school where, while he does all the forbidden things he wants, the others bow and scrape to him, the others worship him.

* Ash, the hero from “Pokemon”, and his friends are children who travel all alone round the world, with the aim of catching as many pocket monsters as possible. Why should they need a family? “All the Pokemon are my friends. We are united like a family”[16].

* Lyra, the young heroine in the trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, is a naughty child who grows up in a college until she finds her mother, who proves to be an extremely vicious and immoral person.

* Artemis, in Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, lives with his insane mother, who cannot take care of him, and although only 12 years of age, he sets out to do criminal activities.

* Kate, in Old Magic by Marianne Curley, has been abandoned by her single mother and lives with her grandmother who initiates her into practices of magic.

* Emily the Strange, even though only 13, lives alone with her 4 cats. She likes being impudent and torturing boys[17].

* Lilo, in the cartoon “Lilo and Stitch”, ends up with a family, consisting of her elder sister and her boyfriend and the genetically modified monster. Lilo shouts, talks insolently, beats and bites the other children and all these are depicted as justified, because “she misses her parents” and she even performs a voodoo ritual, which is again justified since her friends have not treated her well.

The systematic promotion of the above in child entertainment, undoubtedly sets models for imitation. It is a very successful way of encouraging or reinforcing negative behaviour, disobeying parents, living without limitations. Family is disregarded, parents are scorned or disdained.

 

4. Indoctrination in God rejection or paganism

Indoctrination in God rejection or paganism is achieved through child entertainment with the following methods:

a) No reference to God; fostering of the idea of god-self or becoming god without God just by discovering and developing your ostensibly inexhaustible inner powers.

The heroes with whom the children identify are usually the “chosen” children, who have been summoned to save the world, to rid the world of bad people, or to guide people and races[18], playing the part of God. An example: in the first “Digimon” film we hear “When you are a "chosen" child, you have to save the world, no matter what happens” and “since you possess a digimon you are a "chosen" child”. Another example: in the comic “Witch”, the five girls gradually discover their magical powers, as “they are chosen to defend the harmony of the universe”[19]. And the message is: who needs God, when all powers lie within oneself?

b) Deification of nature.

The five young witches of the above comic do whatever they like, controlling the “Powers of Fire, Water, Wind and Earth”[20]. Similarly, the energy of Pokemon is derived from earth, water, fire. And this refers to most pagan and earth-based religions that “find power in the Four Elements – Earth, Water, Fire and Wind”[21].

c) Distortion of the Bible᾿s picture of God and of Christian doctrines.

A characteristic example here is Philip Pullman᾿s trilogy His Dark Materials, consisting of the best-selling, award-winning books Northern Lights (or the Golden Compass), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass[22]. In a few words, the story goes like this. Lyra, the heroine lives in one of the many worlds of a multi-universe, where every person has his/her own demon, which they love and cannot separate from. God is not the omnipotent Creator, nor is He good; He is evil and ruthless. The good guys are the rebel angels that are depicted as half-spiritual, half-material beings. Religions are God᾿s tools for oppression, priests are “murderous or drunk” the Church acts as a government, it even rules over science, it is “cruel and child-hating”. The children᾿s visit to “the land of the dead” convinces them that Heaven does not exist; what the Church says about Heaven is “a big lie”, whereas “everything the witch had told him was true”. And the former nun assures them that “The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that᾿s all”[23]. Finally, the heroes of Philip Pullman᾿s story rebel against God and try to kill Him, to destroy the Kingdom of Heaven and, as new saviours of the world, to set people free. And all these take place in an adventure story full of action, which certainly impresses children.

The author Philip Pullman explicitly states “I᾿m of the devil᾿s party... I᾿m an atheist”[24]. Of course Pullman, like every other person, is free to be religious or not. But what gives him the right to create a work of fiction just to indoctrinate craftily the unsuspicious young readers with his neosatanic beliefs?[25] This is “deception and intellectual dishonesty, especially when it is done in books intended for children”[26].

 

5. Reversal of Morality

It is an undeniable fact that we live in an age that tries to impose a reversal of morality in every possible way, in every place. The children whose value system has not been developed yet, are bombarded with messages that lead to the creation of tremendous moral confusion. This means that evil cannot be distinguished from good, evil is blended with good until gradually and unnoticeably it comes to replace it. Even when good seems to win in the end, the description of evil is so lengthy and detailed that it is evil which dominates the child᾿s mind in the end. Always through an attractive outward appearance or a superficial, ostensible presentation of some good things the child is manipulated to consider good as evil and evil as good. Instead of love he is taught hatred and revenge, instead of humility he is taught selfishness and the pride of power. The end, he is taught, justifies the means and good is suppressed or derided. Great changes are in process. From the absolute values of the Bible we are led to the relativization of values and then to the acceptance of the “reverse” values of the New Age. From the refusal to tolerate sin we are led to tolerance of everything and then to the refusal to tolerate good.

 

6. Fostering evil tendencies

After the child is manipulated to become too confused to discern evil from good, after he is taught to see evil as good and welcome it in his life, the next step of the brainwashing procedure is to foster the child᾿s desire for evil and aversion to good. Children no longer admire good heroes, they admire murderers or gangsters. Before, or instead of, learning about God and saints they learn about the devil and demons.

An example, among numerous, is the computer game “Painkiller”, a game which “will have you fight against demons, zombies and other horrific creatures. The demon-leader Samael... decides to have a business deal with the hero, who undertakes to take satanic souls back to hell, so as to gain magical powers, in return for his services. The aim of the hero is to acquire gradually more and more magical powers so that he can become a demon-leader himself”[27].

A second example is the card game “Magic the Gathering”[28] known as “Magic”, which is extremely popular among teenagers all over the world. In this game players take part “in an intellectual battle... Each player represents a powerful wizard battling for control of a magical plane of existence”[29]. Magic has its own terminology of violence, terror, monstrous creatures, the living dead, sorcery, necromancy etc[30] and includes cards with creatures that destroy everything. “The demons᾿ help leads you to victory”[31]. This is what we read on the official web site of the Greek stores which sell Magic and other similar games and books[32]. The player usually starts with a deck of 60 cards and continues collecting more and more. In the game one can find cards that are “lurid depictions of demons and one that shows a woman about to be sacrificed”[33]. School psychologist Dr Stephen Kosser warns that “grievous harm can befall children thus encouraged to fixate on sinister, brutal forces and imagine that through magic they can control and direct these forces”[34]. According to Dr Stephen Kosser Magic the Gathering “nudges children closer to two pathological beliefs:

1) That magic is a way to effect and influence things and events.

2) That learning about, practising and playing games about conjuring demons, sacrificing creatures in “hideous, cruel rituals”, casting spells to disable and kill your enemies and generally spending time thinking deeply about brutal, dark, sinister forces and how to control and direct them could possibly be healthy recreation[35].

Moreover, Dr Kosser makes a strong point that Magic – and by extension anything of the kind – creates “cognitive dissonance”, which is a powerful tool for manipulation. “Cognitive dissonance” can be explained as follows. “When a person is confronted with dissonance in his beliefs, attitudes or values or with a divergence in them s/he tries to restore some agreement or harmony through changes in his/her cognitive processes or behaviour”[36]. Thus, parents, the Church, the Bible teach children a set of values which may be in conflict with the game. Peer pressure, the Game Master or the game itself presents a conflicting influence. And the child often faces the dilemma “Am I big enough to handle a fantasy game about demons and sorcery or am I a wimp (or Mama᾿s boy, or a religious fanatic)?”[37]

A third example is fantasy role-playing games[38], which constitute the modern way of entertainment among adolescents. Role-playing games are story-telling games in which the participants act out the roles of characters in a story. One player acts as a sort of writer/director/referee and is usually called a game master. The game may last from weeks up to years. An important aspect of these games is that the player is always expected to make choices, which include the choice of the character s/he will identify with, as well as the choice of actions s/he will perform like thefts, murders, rapes, selling his/her soul etc. A popular role-playing game among secondary school children is “Dungeons and Dragons”[39]. In this game the player chooses the race he will belong to (human, elf, half-elf, half-orc, gnome etc)[40], the class he will belong to (barbarian i.e. a ferocious warrior, wizard, sorcerer, cleric i.e. “a master of divine magic”! etc)[41], the quality of his character (lawful good, neutral good, neutral, lawful evil, chaotic evil like demons, vampires, orcs etc)[42] and then the player receives rules of behaviour according to the categories he has chosen. The player also decides which god he will worship and invoke (the god of magic, the god of nature, the god of the sun, the god of slaughter, the god of tyranny, the goddess of death and magic etc)[43] as well as the ways he will attack, the weapons and the types of magic he will use each time[44]. “There is hardly a D&D game in which the players do not indulge in murder, arson, torture, rape or highway robbery”[45].

So, after becoming desensitized to evil, children experience evil emotionally through a role-playing game, which deeply affects them and causes addiction. Because how is it possible for a player not to be influenced when they play such a game for 4-12 hours each time and on top of this they get advice what to do “downtime”, that is working out what their character is going to do next time the game is played?[46] And how can the negative role the child assumes during the game not be fostered, when role-playing is used in psychotherapy in order to develop a certain behaviour? And finally how can we disregard the cases of murders and suicides associated with some fantasy role-playing games like D&D?[47]

The above mentioned games are promoted in an organised and systematic way. Every Friday night stores in many parts of Greece and many other stores in Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and the USA organise “Friday Night Magic” (FNM)[48] and young people, mostly in their teens, gather to play Magic. Lots of events, like conventions, worldwide tournaments and leagues are frequently organised in many countries in the world[49] where young players compete in Pokemon, Harry Potter and various role-playing games. In the United States there is a special organisation, the Committee for the Advancement of Role-playing Games[50], and in August 2001 a similar Association was established in Athens in order to promote role-playing and other games in Greece. Every Friday night older players gather in the main headquarters of the Association to play until late at night another role-playing game called “Vampire: the Masquerade”[51].

 

7. Initiation into magic, occultism, satanism

Research has shown that many of the above “products” of child entertainment, as well as numerous others include elements of magic, occultism or Satanism and can definitely intrigue our children to explore these worlds profoundly. In 1996 †Fr Antonios Alevizopoulos referred to the various clubs of Fantasy Role-playing Games as “suitable places for conversion to neo-Satanism”[52].

Without seeing evil in everything, we should explicitly state that the revival of magic and occultism that is systematically found in modern child entertainment can “open the door” to Satanism. That is why it might be useful to pose the following questions before choosing a children᾿s book, comic, film or game:

1. Is magic presented as interesting or necessary and the wizard as good or superior to others? Is magic divided into “good” magic and bad magic?

2. Is the notion of power overemphasized?

3. Is there a reversal of morality?

4. Does the child identify with violent, evil or demonic characters?

5. Is the negative message “I do as I like” fostered?

6. Is evil depicted as good or as an equal, adverse side of good?

7. Do the symbols, practices or language used have an occultic or satanic content?

 

Conclusion

When profit knows no morality, when evil is being spread and organised at a very high speed, the role of those responsible for children᾿s education is extremely significant. Our children are nowadays in great need of opportunities to know what is sound, what is good, what is holy. It is now, more than ever, that educators and care-givers need to be particularly alert.

 


 

REFERENCES

[1]. http://www.aap.org/advocacy/childhealthmonth/media.htm

[2]. http://www.apa.org/releases/videogames.html

[3]. See 1.

[4]. http://www.apa.org/pubinfo/violence.html

[5]. See 4.

[6]. Kathimerini, p. 22, Sunday 10 November 2002.

[7]. See 1.

[8]. http://www.crimelibrary.com/criminology/kidkill/5.htm

[9]. See 1 and 4.

[10]. In: Χρωματίζω τον κόσμο του Χάρι Πότερ, (I colour the world of Harry Potter), Psichogios.

[11]. In: Παιχνιδοσελίδες Digimon (Playpages Digimon), Modern Times.

[12]. Μαθαίνω να ζωγραφίζω Digital Digimon Monsters (I learn to draw Digital Digimon Monsters), Modern Times.

[13]. The name Digimon replaced the original name Digital Demon, as seen in http://www.crossroad.to/text/articles/Digimon.html

[14]. http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/2002/aliens.htm

[15]. http://www.yugiohkingofgames.com/background.html

[16]. From the Pokemon film “THE UNKNOWN”.

[17]. Eleftherotypia, Epsilon, p. 32, Sunday, 23 December 2002.

[18]. A very common motif in role-playing games, which will be presented below.

[19]. From the comic Witch, issue 3, NEA AKTINA, January 2003.

[20]. From the comic Witch, issue 1, NEA AKTINA, November 2002.

[21]. http://www.watchmanjournal.org/000131.html

[22]. Pullman᾿s trilogy His Dark Materials has sold millions of copies worldwide and it will be shown at the cinemas at the end of 2003.

[23]. In the The Amber Spyglass, Scholastic Publications, 2000.

[24]. In an interview he gave in August 2000, http://www.avnet.co.uk/home/amaranth/Critic/ivpullman.htm.

[25]. Compare his pieces of writing with the beliefs of neo-Satanism (e.g. as analysed in †Fr Antonios Alevizopoulos᾿ book Νεοσατανισμός. Ορθόδοξη Θεώρηση και Αντιμετώπιση, Διάλογος, 1996).

[26]. http://home.swipnet.se/~w-49954/English/pull.html

[27]. From the magazine “PC Master”, issue 153, p. 30, July 2002.

[28]. The game “Magic the Gathering” belongs to the category “collectible card games” (or CCGs). Collectible card games have been categorized as “fantasy” (Magic, Pokemon), “science fiction” (Star Trek, Star Wars), “gothic horror” (Vampire: the Eternal Struggle), “martial arts” (Highlander, Showfist), “global conspiracy” (X-Files, Illuminati).

[29]. http://www.wizards.com/magic/MTG_New_Player.asp

[30]. http://plumeria.vmth.ucdavis.edu/~saintly/gaming/MTG.html

[31]. http://virtuals.compulink.gr/kaissa/games/ccg/mtg/nemesis.html

[32]. http://virtuals.compulink.gr/kaissa/games.html

[33]. http://www.rickross.com/reference/satanism/satanism39.html

[34]. http://home.netcom./~efny/candance/crisis9.html

[35]. Steven Kosser, the Kosser Education Newsletter, Vol.3, No 10a, pp. 1, 2.

[36]. Σύντομο Ερμηνευτικό Λεξικό Ψυχολογικών Όρων (Concise Dictionary of Psychological Terms), Dodone, 1989.

[37]. See 35, p. 4.

[38]. Abbreviated as FRPGs like: Dungeons and Dragons, Vampire, Werewolf.

[39]. Abbreviated as D&D.

[40]. From the Dungeons and Dragons Player᾿s Handbook, pp. 12-13, Wizards of the Coast, 2000.

[41]. See 40, p. 21.

[42]. See 40, pp. 88-90.

[43]. See 40, p. 31.

[44]. See 40, pp. 116-274.

[45]. http://www.watchman.org./occult/frpgames2.htm

[46]. http://mhatsakhull.badnet.gr/esperos/ABN/World/Influence.htm

[47]. See 45.

[48]. http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=events/magic/fnm

[49]. http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=welcome/events

[50]. In Texas.

[51]. http://mhatsakhull.badnet.gr/esperos/ABN/World/World.htm January 2003

[52]. Νεοσατανισμός – Ορθόδοξη Θεώρηση και Αντιμετώπιση, p. 185, Διάλογος, 1998.

 


 

(Source: the Greek magazine Parakatathiki, issue no 28, January-February 2003)

 


 

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