By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — As far as Kids as Peacemakers president and Central Congregational Church pastor Christopher Ney is concerned, what his organization is asking of area youth should be fairly easy.
“We are inviting families to take a week off from violent video games,” Ney said.
Described by Ney as a pilot project, Kids as Peacemakers’ “A Week Without Violent Video Games and Apps” begins tomorrow and is designed to begin a dialogue between parents and their children about the impact of violent media.
“We are not defining the question,” Ney said. “We are not saying that game X-Y-Z is awful and should never be played and that game Q-R-S is what we should be doing. We really are doing this campaign in order to provoke a conversation and to share some information so that parents and kids together can make better choices about how they spend their recreational time.”
Moved by the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn. last December, Kids as Peacemakers convened a number of community meetings this year to talk about taking action.
“There were a variety of different ideas, some of which had been done in different places and at different times,” Ney said. “But, as the conversation evolved, a lot of us began to focus on the media and violence and the potential impact that it has on kids.”
But as Kids as Peacemakers began researching the issue, the information they found sent them in a number of different directions.
“There is the argument that violent video games do have an impact on kids,” Ney said. “Then there is research that shows there is no impact on kids’ development or proclivities towards violence. But, in all of our conversations, we recognize that this is an issue that parents are very concerned about. And one of the concerns is that none of us feel that we have enough information. We don’t even know what questions to ask or what issues we should be thinking about.”
But the group felt they needed to give it a try and the pilot program was born. The week will kickoff at the Central Congregational Church tomorrow night with a night of board games and a potluck supper and desserts.
Central Congregation Church member Ruth Temperiono has talked her 17-year-old son into taking part, although he doesn’t completely understand why it’s needed.
“My son doesn’t understand why I’m so concerned,” Temperiono said. “He said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to go around shooting anybody.’ But I told him, ‘that’s not it. You just have to understand where we’re coming from. It’s very concerning.’ When I was growing up, there was Pac-Man and Pong. We didn’t have these intense video games that the kids are playing these days.”
As the week goes on, participating parents or children ages 13 and older are encouraged to either email or post messages on the Kids as Peacemakers Facebook page a description or picture of what activities they have been doing.
The Facebook page will also provide information on alternative recreational activities such as going to museums or nature preserves, playing traditional games with others and doing some volunteer work. A drawing will also be held each day for gift certificates to local businesses and restaurants such as Macro Polo, Orange Leaf and Amesbury Skate and Sport.
“We figure that will be a little bit of an incentive for the too-cool-for-school crowd,” Ney said.
Once the week is over, Kids as Peacemakers will take stock of the program.
“We’ll do it for a week and see how it goes,” Temperiono said. “With everything that is going on and with all the school shootings and all that, it’s very concerning to me and I feel as if we need to regain control over our youth.”