Many children enjoy battling evil in video games. While it may seem that engaging in simulated violent battle could have little impact on a child, evidence exists that indicates that video game violence can translate to real world aggression. Before you buy your little video game lover that violence-rich game he has had his eye on, consider the potential consequences that repeatedly playing the game could have on your kid.
Prevalence of Video Game Play
It won’t come as much surprise to many parents that many children enjoy playing video games. Many video game lovers spend at least an hour a day hooked up to the television enjoying their favorite game. As reported in “Psychological Science,” 10 percent of all children between the ages of 2 and 18 dedicate at least 60 minutes to video game play each day.
Impact of Violent Video Games
While some video games are specifically designed to be educational or to allow players to act out fantasies that they may never experience in real life, others are rife with violence. Researchers have long wondered what impact violent video games have on young players. Numerous studies, including one conducted by “The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology” have determined that — at least in the short-term — children are more likely to act aggressively if they play violent video games. The researchers in this study hypothesize that children act aggressively because they are mimicking the things they witnessed on the game, potentially leading to desensitization and the inability to recognize the difference between real-world and imaginary violence.
The “Journal of Experimental Social Psychology” study into the impact of video games on children found that boys were more likely to act aggressively after playing a violent video game than their female peers. A number of explanations could account for this gender difference. It is possible that boys are simply more prone to aggression than girls and, as a result, more likely to act aggressively in general. It is also possible that the study’s choice of video game, in this case “Mortal Kombat,” led to a more notable violence level increase in boys because most of the characters in the game were male, enabling boy players to identify better with the individuals depicted in the game.
Careful Game Selection
If you, as a conscientious mom, worry about the effects of video games on your child, you have resources at your disposal. While you certainly don’t have time to play every game that your child may want, you can get some insight into what the game may contain by studying the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s rating of each game. The ESRB rates games similarly to the way films are rated. To determine whether the game your child is begging for is appropriate for him, inspect both the rating symbol, which tells you the minimum recommended age for game play, as well as the content descriptors, which tell you what specific elements the game contains that you may find objectionable.
Minimizing the Effects
If your child is an avid gamer, it may be impossible for you to separate him from his console altogether. You can, however, work to reduce the effects of his violent game play. As “Psychology Science” suggests, parents should limit the amount of time that the child spends playing games each day. Not only does excessive playing of violent games lead to aggression, spending too much time in front of the television engaging in game play leads to detachment and may contribute to childhood obesity. While you don’t have to banish the video game system from your house, for your kids’ sake, you should put limits on this electronic pastime.