Internet Expert Publicly Denounces New "Bully" Game
Working to Halt Online Abuse Kids/Teen Division President expresses concern that "Bully" video game could adversely impact children.
York, ME August 29, 2006 -? Jayne Hitchcock, president of Working to Halt Online Abuse and their Kids/Teens Division, is concerned about the new video game "Bully," scheduled for release in October 2006. Rockstar, part of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., previously produced the Grand Theft Auto game that contained a secret sex mini-game in the computer version. That controversial hidden mini-game, discovered by a hacker, prompted a recall and re-rating. The newest game, "Bully," features 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins, a student left at Bullworth Academy when his mother goes on her 5th honeymoon. Rockstar's overview states Jimmy was expelled from every school he ever attended and the game centers around him defending himself against bullies, popular students, teachers and teacher favorites. Weapons used include baseball bats, stink bombs and marbles, physical punching and kicking.
Experts and groups from all over the world are debating the pros and cons of "Bully" and whether it is too violent, violent or not at all violent. There have been efforts to prevent release of the new game, which is not even rated yet, although it is anticipated it will come out as a "T," meaning suitable for those 13 years old and older.
"Early indications are that the game can be construed as violent," Hitchcock says. "At the very least, the clips and previews clearly present educators in a cynical, non-comical, position. What message does this send out to troubled kids? That teachers are not to be trusted? Educators already have their hands full trying to help children who are victims of bullies. They don't need a game that tends to ridicule them in the eyes of students."
Hitchcock wonders, "How long will it be before we hear on the news about a victim of bullies who is inspired by the new game and retaliates using a baseball bat? There is a tremendous probability that this new game will send out twisted messages, possibly even influence victims of bullying to resort to violence as a means of defense. Games can and do make impressions on young people, especially when they play the games over and over."
Bullying is a serious national problem in and out of the educational system and Internet bullying is gaining momentum. The American Justice Department showed that 77% of students said they had been bullied and 14% who had been bullied said they experience severe reactions to the abuse. The study further show that 1 out of 5 students admitted to being a bully; 282,000 students are physically attacked each month in secondary schools; and that 1 out of 4 students are bullied.
"It's one thing to make a video game that is a 'fantasy' or unrealistic situation with adults as the main characters," Hitchcock states, "but it's another to glorify a daily, real-life situation like bullying and making the main characters teens. This targets the video game to kids and teens, who are impressionable and might come to believe they could be just like Jimmy Hopkins and beat the daylights out of their real-life bullies. That is not the message that should be sent out."
Parents, educators and advocate groups are working steadily to raise awareness of bullying offline and online, reaching out to help victims before lifetime damage is done, and any game that diminishes the seriousness of the problem needs to be condemned. Working to Halt Online Abuse and their Kids/Teen Division encourage retailers to refuse to sell the video game to those under the age of 13 if it is rated as "T"(Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older). Hitchcock, however, is hopeful that the Entertainment Software Rating Board will rate the new Bully game as "M" for mature audiences, which means it cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 17.
"Yes, parents are responsible for the actions of their children, but to a point," Hitchcock adds. "They can set ground rules at home as to what their children can view, play or do, but once that child is out the door, who is to say they won't go to a friend's house where the parents are not as responsible? You can't blame the parents for everything. It's a sad day when video game manufacturers play on the fears of kids and teens like they are doing with this game."
Working to Halt Online Abuse, the oldest and largest all-volunteer online safety organization has been helping adult victims of cyber crime worldwide since February, 1997, and is the only online safety organization to offer the most up-to-date cyberstalking statistics and resources for victims. Working to Halt Online Abuse Kids/Teen Division was founded in May 2005 in response to a growing need for kids and teens to have a place to turn to when they are being bullied, harassed, intimidated, or stalked online.
42% of kids have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once.
35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 have had it happen more than once.
21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mail or other messages.
58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.
53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
Based on a 2004 survey of 1,500 students conducted by i-Safe
Hitchcock is the author of Net Crimes & Misdemeanors 2nd edition (netcrimes.net) and has appeared on or been featured in People magazine, Lifetime TV and Seattle Times, Primetime Thursday, the New York Times, CNN News, the Montel Williams show, USA Today, and Good Morning America as well as being named Lifetime TV's "Champion for Change."
To learn more about WHOA or WHOA-Kids/Teens Division, or if you know someone who needs help, please visit http://www.haltabuse.org
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