Welcome to the January issue of The School Mediator.
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Hoping our American readers had a fitting MLK day, and
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
This month's feature article addresses the increasing
violence in media culture and its effect upon
| Why is That Doll Threatening Me?
It was the "punch" button that got me going.
We were in the waiting room of a children's restaurant,
and knowing that their clientele was
"waiting-impaired"--and unwittingly contributing to
same--the proprietors had provided a bank of video
games against the wall.
The noise was piercing. From our safe distance we saw
explosions in neon colors. Five-year-old Sam was
understandably curious, and he grabbed my hand and
pulled me to the machines like he was leading a
vegetarian to a butcher's case.
We stopped in front of a video basketball game. This
seemed harmless enough. As we watched the
programmed demonstration, however, it was clear
that the digitized players were hitting each other
than the boards. When one player's shot was blocked,
he slugged his opponent in the face. Looking down at
the console, I saw that next to the "shoot the ball"
button was one labeled "punch."
Punching is not allowed in basketball or most other
sports. Punching another player actually gets you
thrown out of the game!
But the designers of this video experience clearly felt it
wasn't exciting enough to play an approximation of
basketball as we know it. They had to add
gratuitous violence to
satisfy their audience.
Diane Levin seems to know why. A professor at
Wheelock College in Boston, Levin is an internationally
recognized expert on how popular culture influences the
way young children resolve conflict. She spoke to
70 peer mediation coordinators who gathered for School
Mediation Associates' 6th Annual Coordinators'
Roundtable. And her answers were as disturbing as they
Plainly put: Violence gets kids' attention, and so
But it is worse. Because children are incrementally
desensitized to violence, the creators of children's
toys, games and media programming continually raise
the level of violence in their products to grab young
ever decreasing (and dulled) attention. They are
in a downward spiral of their own making. And our
children are the losers.
In addition, since the 1984 deregulation of children's
television allowed them to do so, American television
producers and their partners have increasingly tied the
marketing of products into children's programming. What
results are many disturbing toys sold to kids around the
Consider the following examples displayed by Dr. Levin,
all toys linked to TV shows and movies, all marketed
four to eight year olds:
*A muscled action figure that comes with an
accompanying "wimp" doll designed to be
dismembered (sic) by the hero.
*Scantily clad female dolls with bodies and
seem more suited to adults' sadomasochistic sex
practices than to children's play.
*Action figures with knives that pop out of
voices that threaten to destroy their enemies, and in one
particularly gruesome example, the severed head of a
woman as a weapon of choice.
*Most timely and chilling, a replica of the World
Center towers that children were encouraged to blow up.
Professor Levin's talk helped us understand the roots of
some our students' behaviors. Children are
developmentally unable to distinguish between fantasy
and reality when first introduced to these
products and programs. And by age eight, the
patterns of aggression are predictive of adult behavior.
Levin urged us to limit children's exposure to what she
broadly refers to as "media culture." She expressed
alarm that with the increasing popularity of hand-held
video games, home computers, and now even DVD
players in cars, American children's "screen time" per
is still rising.
Our children don't need "punch" buttons on their video
basketball games; they don't even need video basketball
games. They need to play more basketball.
Professor Levin also encouraged us to become activists
and let media and retail establishments know that
we will not tolerate the exploitation of children.
For more information, visit the websites of advocacy
organizations Levin helped found:
www.truceteachers.org. Or, learn more about the
weeklong summer institute on Media Education in a Violent Society Levin
teaches at Wheelock.
The Rookies and the Veterans
|You have just completed a peer mediation training and
have 20 inexperienced but enthusiastic mediators. You
also have 12 veteran student mediators active in the
program. Both groups have a close bond within their
own training cohort, but don't feel comfortable with
members of the other group.
What have you done to integrate veterans
mediators into a cohesive team? Invite the veterans
the training graduation? Hold a social event for all
Please send us your
experiences managing this surprisingly tricky issue.
We will post your responses in the next newsletter.
|For almost twenty years, School Mediation Associates
has been devoted to the application and promotion of
mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform
schools into safer, more caring, and more effective
institutions. Our books and training programs have been utilized by tens
of thousands of people around the world.
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