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Q: My 10 year old son loves to play video games. The other day I happened to see a few minutes of one of the games he was playing and it was much more violent than I thought it would be.  Should I worry about how these games affect him?
Quite Surprised in Bar Harbor, ME

A: Dear Quite Surprised,

You shouldn't worry about it, you should do something about it!  Research studies show that people who are exposed to media violence (including video games) can have increased violent thoughts and behaviors and can become desensitized to violence.

I think the easiest way to think about it is that video games are an effective teaching tool.  The player practices the skill of the game over and over again.  So if the video game is a flight simulator, the player learns how to fly and land a plane.  Since your son is playing violent games, he is learning violence, rehearsing violent actions over and over again. 

My suggestion is to sit down and play the game with him.  Ask him about the violence you see — does he really want to spend his time "killing" people?  Try to get him to identify what it is he really likes about the game.Then together you can try to replace his violent games with those that teach skills you would want him to learn.  For example, if he likes the competition of the game, perhaps you could find a sports game that would teach him the strategies behind football.  You could also introduce him to games like Caduceus from Generation Cures and others that introduce kids to solving real-world problems.

I hope these strategies let you find some common ground and some games that you both find fun!

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician

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