How far would you go to teach your child an important life lesson? Carl-Magnus Helgegren, a Swedish father, journalist and university professor, has come under fire for taking his 10 and 11-year-old sons to Israel, the West Bank and Syria so they could witness the harsh realities of war.
Helgegren planned the controversial trip with his sons after they expressed an interest in playing a violent, war-themed video game.
During their 10-day tour of the Middle East, he and his sons observed alarming living conditions and interviewed various civilians, teachers and medical professionals affected by the ongoing conflict. They also visited a refugee camp in east Jerusalem, as well as a clinic where young children were being treated for injuries caused by tear gas, rifle butts and rubber bullets. Helgegren says that his sons were never in imminent danger, nor were they scared by what they saw — only shocked.
Helgegren documented the experience online, which sparked both criticism and support from parents worldwide. Although the measure Helgegren took may have been extreme, it had the effect he hoped it would. Upon returning to Sweden, his sons decided against playing the militaristic video game that prompted their unconventional family excursion.
Hundreds of studies point out potential links between violent video games and aggressive behavior in children and teens that may extend into adulthood. Recent statistics show a significant increase in the percentage of video games with mature subject matter, and while those games are intended for adults, many kids are playing them every day.
A 2008 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 97 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 play video games; in addition, the survey revealed that 36 percent of teen gamers regularly play games that are rated M for Mature or AO for Adults Only.