Video gaming has become a popular activity for people of all ages. Many children and adolescents spend large amounts of time playing them, although no one should have more than two hours total of screen time in a day. Video gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry, bringing in more money than movies and DVDs combined. Video games have become very sophisticated and realistic and some games connect to the Internet, which allow children and adolescents to play online with unknown adults and peers.
While some games have educational content, many of the most popular games emphasize negative themes. They promote the killing of people or animals, the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, criminal behavior, disrespect for the law and other authority figures, sexual exploitation and violence towards women, racial, sexual and gender stereotypes, and foul language obscenities and obscene gestures. Examples of video games not acceptable for children because they have these themes include the popular ones Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Mortal Kombat.
There is growing research on the effects of video games on children. Studies of children exposed to violence have shown that they can become immune or numb to the horror of violence, imitate the violence they see and show more aggressive behavior with greater exposure to violence. Studies have also shown that the more realistic and repeated the exposure to violence, the greater the impact on children. Children and adolescents can become overly involved and even obsessed with video games, leading to poor social skills, time away from family time, school work and other hobbies, lower grades, reading less, exercising less, becoming overweight, and having aggressive thoughts and behaviors.
So how can you, as a parent, protect your child against these types of video games? First, you can check the Entertainment Software Rating Board ratings to learn about the game’s content. Every video game will actually have a label on the front to tell you what type of game it is. If it says M for mature, it’s not for your child.
Play the video games with your child to experience the game’s content and know exactly what your child is playing. Set clear rules about the game’s content for both playing time in and outside of your home. Strongly warn your children about the potential serious dangers of Internet contacts and relationships while playing online. There are a lot of online predators that will look for children specifically playing video games and this can lead to them meeting in real life. Finally, remember that you are a role model for your child. Make sure the video games you play as an adult are ones that you would want your child to play.
If you are concerned as a parent that your child is spending too much time playing video games or your child starts becoming obsessed with aggressive or violent video games, make sure you set some limits. You’re not allowed to play games for one hour after all the homework is done and encourage your child to participate in other activities so they’re not drawn to those video games. By being aware of what games are out there, you can help your child make appropriate decisions about gaming no matter where your child plays.