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VIOLENCE, KIDS & Grand Theft Auto

By Jackie Burrell
Thursday, April 24th, 2008 at 11:33 am in Technology & Video Games.

Grand Theft Auto screen shot
Grand Theft Auto IV” hits store shelves next week. If you’ve somehow missed all the fuss, been living on a desert island or in a hermitage someplace, “Grand Theft Auto” is an insanely popular video game series in which players work their way up the criminal underworld ranks by stealing, pimping, killing or street racing their way through a gritty, urban environment. Needless to say, it’s controversial. And the latest entry in the franchise explodes Tuesday.

So Times’ video game columnist Gieson Cacho went for a ride-along with a Concord police officer this week to chat about real-life urban crime and the infamous video game, and talked with Dr. Lawrence Kutner, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and co-author of “Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games.”

Interestingly, Kutner says that an outright ban on the game, which is ranked first among most-played games by boys and second for girls, may not be a good idea. Discuss concerns and limits, he says, don’t just veto it.

“It’s going to be a huge seller,” he told Cacho. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure on kids to get this. You have to talk to them about why they like it. You have to put this in perspective.”

Parents need to stay involved in their kids’ game play, particularly with games that include violent or troubling elements, but be aware that the ways teens play this game may not be as violent as you fear. Boys focus on the missions, he says, girls tend to explore the game’s environment. “They try on clothes at the mall,” he told Cacho. “They deliver pizzas.”

Click “comments” and tell us your thoughts. Do you let your kids or teens play these games? Do you play?

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