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Education Reporter

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Out of Harm's Way: one man's relentless crusade to topple media giants and save your kids from video game madness. Jack Thompson, Tyndale House Publishers, 2005, 234 pp., $19.99.

Since 1988, Jack Thompson, an attorney and concerned parent, has been fighting violence and obscenity in the entertainment industry. Out of Harm's Way chronicles this fight and exposes some of the hazards of music, movies, video games, and other media. Recently, he has focused more on violent video games, which are causing major problems in our schools.

Some of the minor problems video games cause are ADD, trouble learning how to read (as children are constantly barraged by lifelike graphics), and even weight gain (as children get less exercise). Even non-violent, kid-friendly games can cause these problems.

Some results of these games are deadly. The day after Thompson and fellow lawyers filed a suit against the game "Doom," he said on the Today show that he feared the game would prompt school shootings. Seven days later, the Columbine shooting happened. These boys had trained themselves to kill using the game "Doom." The FBI investigated Columbine and other school shootings and found that they all had a common thread - the consumption of violent entertainment, especially video games, by teenage boys.

Many of these games have a "mature" (adults only) rating, but are marketed in magazines read by teenage boys. Thompson thinks that adults should be allowed to choose if they want to play these games, but he wants to stop the marketing and sale of these games to teenagers.

While adults process these games in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is connected to rational thought, teenagers activate the midbrain, which is related to emotions. They go through a sort of traumatic stress syndrome, are desensitized to killing others, and are twice as likely to cause violent incidents at school.

Thompson was asked to give an address to his son John's school at the monthly school-wide convocation about violent video games. When he picked up John later in the day, he said that his dad's speech really resonated with the kids. Two boys came up to John and told him, "We thought your dad was going to be a jerk, but he convinced us. We're not playing those games anymore." Thompson hopes that by getting the word out to kids and parents, he can make schools a safer place for everyone.

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