Suzanne Fields

Justice Samuel Alito tried a little humor. "I think what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games." Retorted Mr. Scalia: "No, I want to know what James Madison thought about violence."

Justice Elena Kagan observed that half of the law clerks at the Supreme Court spent hours in their adolescence playing "Mortal Combat," a popular martial-arts game that by the law's ambiguous standards could be targeted (to employ a violent metaphor) by the California law.

Fairy tales are often brutal but can help a child sublimate feelings of aggression. Depictions of violence in our culture have gone way past what the Founding Fathers could have imagined, but is it possible to say that a specific game is more likely to affect behavior than the cumulative aggressive messages in television, movies, lyrics ... and life?

The strongest risk factors for violence in children remain mental instability and an unstable home environment. But there are common-sense approaches to reducing risks. Video game equipment could be kept out of a child's room and strict limits imposed on gaming at home. Adults should play video games with their kids, as painful as that would be for both parties, to learn what the games are about.

What's especially hard for parents as they move from the written word to the digital world is to see how certain video games can build positive skills for children, even beyond good hand-eye coordination. Research suggests the games increase mental dexterity, problem-solving ability and strategic thinking.

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked whether the state of California has an agency to provide advisory opinions on whether a particular game would come under the law, she was told it didn't. Justice Scalia suggested that the state could establish one to be called the "California Office of Censorship." Another cause and effect to avoid.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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