A whopping 97% of12-17 year olds play video games, making it the most popular activity among teenagers. On any given day 60% of teenagers will play a video game in their home. With $12 billion dollars in video games sales come concerns that the excessive violence in many of the games leads to aggressive behavior in those that play them.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of Adolescence concluded that children who regularly play violent video games were less likely to feel bad when their friends were upset and more likely to feel it is okay to retaliate if someone hits them.
Part of the moral confusion kids must navigate when playing violent video games is not simply that there is evil, but rather how you are to interact with the evil as a player. In many popular mass multiplayer games (MMP), players now play the game as the evil character. For instance in Grand Theft Auto IV, your character is a released convict who now works as an auto thief. At different points in the game, your job is to shoot at and outrun the police, visit strip bars, and terrorize citizens with your car in hopes of getting the high score. Instead of violence, sexism, or racism being punished, these types of behavior are rewarded with “power-ups,” extra lives, and bonus scores in many of the games.
More than likely, no one else but you is going to monitor your child in regards to the types of video games they play. It comes down to you managing how much they use video games. Here are some suggested guidelines for you to consider.
1. Create a “No-Go” list.
This is a list of non-negotiables for video game use, such as no TV or video-game playing in a bedroom or the type of games you’ll allow in your home. Periodically revisit the list of boundaries with your child when it comes to video game usage.
2. Offer Alternatives to Release Aggression.
Teenagers need to have a way to release aggression and to be active each day. Be sure the provide opportunities that don’t include video games such as karate, horseback riding, or acting.
3. Establish a Video Game Bank.
Life is best lived when done within healthy boundaries and moderation. Give your child a set amount of time per week or per day that he/she can play video games. When my son was young we used a cooking timer. You can use poker chips or something similar that represent a time allotment. Once they withdraw all of their time out of the “bank,” the play time is over.
4. Evaluate the Game Rating.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was created to rate video games and to create a standard age appropriateness. They do a good job in rating the games and explaining their rationale, but it is still up to you to decide what is right your for child.
One of the best ways to monitor the kind of games and the amount of time your child plays video games, is for you to join them in their game play. This is a great way to connect with your older teen and let him teach you a thing or to. For your younger child, it creates some accountability. For more on how to use video game to enhance your relationship with your child, check out some of the resources over at ParentingGamers.com.