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Violent Video Games

Copyright Microsoft Clipart
Copyright Microsoft Clipart

In a world where there is so much to protect our children from is it worth a parentís time and energy to monitor and control the video games that children play? Or are these games simply entertaining diversions? Except for a few studies, the scientific research clearly shows that playing violent video games can make children more aggressive. Limiting your childís use of violent video games may help them behave in more positive ways and succeed socially and academically.

How Violent Games Encourage Aggression

Scientific research has shown time and again that children learn from what they see on a screen. If they see violence being rewarded, they are going to learn that being aggressive is a good way to get what they want. Believing this can have long term effects on childrenís behavior.

After seeing media violence, children are more likely to imitate that violence. But direct imitation is only a small part of the issue. Playing these games primes children to behave aggressively; it gets them ready to act out in the next situation, whatever it might be. After playing a violent video game, a child who can normally handle frustration may lash out when things donít go his or her way.

It is important to remember that it may not matter if the violence in the video game is graphic or real looking. There is some evidence that even cartoony violence without blood can make children more aggressive. Video games can teach children that violence brings rewards without showing guts and gore.

Government Regulation

Currently, state and federal governments are attempting to pass laws that punish retailers for selling violent video games to minors. These laws are being challenged in court as unconstitutional by video game producers. The majority of the laws have been overthrown by the courts with judges deciding that the laws impinge unnecessarily on the freedom of speech of the video game creators.

What Parents Can Do

While retailers can restrict the sale of some video games to children (either on their own accord or under the charge of law), parents are truly the final bastion between their children and violent video games. It is up to them whether or not to allow the gaming systems and the games into their homes.

What can you as a parent do to protect your children from violent video games?

  1. Be very particular about the types of games you bring into the home. Just because your child has seen ads for a game and wants it doesnít mean they should have it. Spend a little time online reading about the game your child wants and, if it isnít appropriate, try to find one thatís better. You can use the video game ratings as a rough guideline, but there are some studies showing that these ratings donít accurately describe the amount of violence in games. There are some very good (and very fun) non-violent puzzle games available, especially for handheld systems (like the Gameboy and Nintendo DS).

  2. Do not allow video game systems (or televisions) in your childrenís rooms. By keeping the game system in a common area, you can monitor its use much more easily and be aware of games that children acquire from friends or elsewhere. Remember that itís much easier to never put a game system in your childís room than it is to remove one thatís already there.

  3. Encourage lots of social and extracurricular activities. The amount of time that children use media is often determined by the amount of down time that they have at their home. If you think your child is spending too much time playing video games, finding other fun activities for them will probably be more effective than simply setting time limits or restricting overall use.
In the end you canít protect your children from all media images. But you can make your home a media safe place by modeling good media use and choosing good content for yourself and your children.

Resources on this topic
» Violent Video Games Desensitize Players

University of Michigan
» Court Blocks Videogame Ruling

» Video Game Report Card

National Institute on Media and the Family
» Games Prime Brain for Violence

BBC News
» Parents Ignore Video Game Ratings

BBC News
» Does video game violence sow aggression? Studies probe effects of virtual violence on children

» Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature

» Violent video games: Specific effects of violent content of aggressive thought and behavior

» Violent video games and aggressive behavior in young women

» Playing violent video games, desensitization, and moral evaluation in children

» The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance

» Violence exposure in real-life, video games, television, movies, and the internet: Is there desensitization?

» Violence in teen-rated video games

» Content and ratings of teen-rated video games

» Parental Involvement Reduces Negative Effects

American Psychological Association
» Worse Than Violent Movies?

American Psychological Association
» Guide to Video Game Ratings

American Academy of Pediatrics


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