Tom and Jerry cartoons and video games are behind a rising tide of violence in the Middle East according to a top Egyptian intelligence agency.
At a conference entitled "The Media and the Culture of Violence" at Cairo University, Salan Abdel Sadeq said, "Tom and Jerry portrays violence in a funny manner, and gives the impression that, yes, I can hit him, and I can blow him up with explosives."
Social media in the Middle East lit up with comments. One person asked, "So it's not the Moslem Brotherhood after all." Another complained her daughter loved Tom and Jerry.
But Sadeq did not attribute the outbreak of violence and extremist just to the cat and the mouse. He went further.
"Video games are spreading...it has become normal for a young man to sit for long hours playing video games, killing and spilling blood. He is happy and content with that," he said.
He added, according to the website Egyptianstreets.com, that youths are "faced with social pressures that push them to resort to violence, which they consider normal and understandable."
While my first reaction was to defend the 1940's cat and mouse cartoon characters, the more I considered he had some validity. While I hesitate to call Tom or Jerry terrorists, I have to admit they have always introduced a goodly amount of biff, bang, boom in their encounters!
The NSW Education Department has an excellent website to help parents understand this very dilemma (www.schoolatoz.nsw.edu.au)
They ask: "Does cartoon violence make kids more aggressive?" "At a glance research indicates that exposure to violence makes it seem more acceptable to kids. Today's animation and games are so realistic it can be hard for kids to tell the difference between 'pretend' violence and live action, making some animation just as disturbing as the real thing," they say. Along with Tom and Jerry they also mention 'The Road Runner and other animated favourites."
Appropriately (I thought) they mentioned Sleeping Beauty and the jealous witch. (I am amazed at the prominence of witches and demons in children's books. Once we preached messages about this content today we seem to have shrugged our shoulders in surrender).
After a lengthy study the Australian Psychology Society said: "it is generally agreed that prolonged exposure to media violence is one of the many interacting factors which lead to children being more likely to display aggressive behaviour in the long term. It is also agreed that the social context is important in determining the effects of exposure to violent media; e.g., if an adult helps the child interpret and critique the viewed material, the negative effects are lessened. Later research on violent video games has largely supported these effects of violent media, showing that exposure to video game violence leads to increased aggression, an effect that has been demonstrated both as a short-term consequence and longer-term effect of excessive exposure." (www.psychology.org.au)
A study authored by L. Rowell Huesman and Brad Bushman, both professors at the University of Michigan found: "Violence depicted on television, in films and video games raises the risk of aggressive behavior in adults and young viewers and poses a serious threat to public health, according to a new study."
After 50 years of research and analysis of the impact of violence in the media, the professors declared "only smoking is a greater risk for public health than video games!"
The website gamepolitics.com responded by interviewing Huesman who said, "Please be aware that an implication of the body of research I reviewed is that the mass media and video games are very powerful teachers. Video games can teach wonderful things or they can teach bad things. It would be a shame if my review were used to indict all video games. There are many great games that teach kids very valuable things."
The most important lessons children learn most often comes from parents. By stopping a violent cartoon, game or video and explaining why it is not appropriate is the best influence of all.
The Apostle Paul was a great witness to his followers. His behavior was so impeccable he was able to write to the church in Philippi saying: "Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are pleasing, whatever things are commendable, if there is any excellence of character and if anything praiseworthy, think about these things. And the things which you have learned and received and heard about and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians Chapter 4, verses 8 and 9)
"Seen in me" he wrote. What an amazing witness? It is true however, children learn a great deal from watching their elders and observing what we allow into their lives. The Letter by Paul was great advice then and it remains the best advice for our children today.
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel. His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html