Price City Council considers getting 'unplugged' game
Almost everyone agrees that kids these days spend too much time in front of video games, computers and on other electronic devices. Yet restricting them or finding alternatives seems to be very hard for a lot of parents.
On Wednesday evening, just before their regular meeting, the Price City Council heard a presentation concerning some alternatives, one they could participate in by presenting it to the entire community. It's called "Play Unplugged."
Reasoning behind the program comes from what is going on in today's society. Most scientific studies link violent video games with aggressive behaviors in children and even adults. Large amounts of exposure to violence can desensitize individuals to abnormal behavior which can lead to children being loners, not being able to communicate effectively with others and even extreme violence.
"Do you know how many children have been killed in schools by fire in the last 40 years?" asked Erick Rowland of Play Unplugged. "Zero. How many have been killed by violence in schools? We have done a great job of protecting kids in school from a lot of dangers, but not so much from violence."
Rowland went on to show the astounding numbers of kids whose life has ended due to violence during various periods during that same time.
"The fact is that violence kills kids more than all other ways combined," he stated.
He told the council that today, more and more, games are actually using actions rather than just pushing buttons to kill opponents in games.
"There is one game where the operator actually has to reach over the head of the person on the screen and choke them," he said. "These are the same games that are being used by the military to train people on how to kill others. There are off-the-shelf systems that are being used right now to train militants around the world."
Rowland went on to say that while there are some redeeming qualities to all games and that it isn't all bad, that too much of them can be a problem. However by turning off games cold turkey, a void is left in kids lives that needs to be filled.
"We need to give them something else to do," he said, explaining the concept of Play Unplugged.
The program was developed by a member of the Heber City Council and was used in conjunction with the Wasatch Wave's (Heber's newspaper) recreation guide that came out this summer. The program was an insert in the magazine and it became a big hit almost immediately. The program uses a connection of things to do (outside the realm of video and electronics) with collectable badges kids can obtain from businesses in an area where the program is operated. Included along with the badges are other rewards and drawings for prizes.
"We actually were very surprised by how well this worked. In fact the response was overwhelming from not only parents but kids too," he stated.
Rowland said it filled a void during the summer with busy parents trying to find things for their bored kids to do.
"It was good for the businesses too," he said. "The average foot traffic into businesses that participated in town went up 500 percent."
The number of collectable tags that were ordered initially was just a little under 10,000. However by the end of the summer they had to add another 45,000 to keep up with the demand. The tags became very desirable and were a hot item with kids in the Heber Valley.
"The most popular tag that the kids wanted was from the Heber Police Department," stated Rowland. "The department actually had an officer doing almost nothing but passing out those tags for two weeks."
Another popular tag was the game slayer tag that a child could get for turning in a violent video game.
"We had over 350 games turned in," said Rowland. "In fact one kid turned in all his games as well as all his game system."
Rowland said that many kids said that when they realized how much there was to do in the Heber area, they just didn't want to play video games anymore.
The program was introduced to students in a special assembly at the schools in the area just before summer vacation. Rowland said it worked well for kids in junior high and in the high school but the biggest success of the program was with kids between the ages of six and 12 years old.
After hearing the presentation the council discussed the possibilities of introducing just such a program into the Price area. When they asked about the cost Rowland told them that the initial start up of the program would cost $3,500, with many of the perks of the program included in that price.
"We want it to be as turn key as possible for anyone who wishes to use the program," said Rowland. He told the council that the tags would be designed with the local area in mind and the designers could help kick the program off.
A few days before the council heard the presentation, the Sun Advocate contacted the co-publisher of the Wasatch Wave and asked about the program.
"It was a huge success," said publisher/editor Laurie Wynn. "It was very interesting to see how this became a community project and how it took off. It was a positive for the kids, parents and the businesses in town."
The council will be considering the program and decide whether it is something they can fund and make workable in the local area.