Video games are becoming more violent and increasingly realistic as technology improves. In 2008 it was reported that 97% of young people ages 12-17 played some type of video game, and that two-thirds of them played games that contained violent content. In addition, a separate study found that more than half of all video games contained violence. Because of this reality, parents, teachers and mental health professionals are beginning to ask questions about the impact that violent video games will have on today’s youth.
Researchers are divided on whether or not violent video games actually increase aggression among children and teens. Many organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) imply that children learn from observing, mimicking, and adopting behaviors, therefore are concerned that exposure to violent video games may cause many problems. For example, they state that over time exposure to violent video games will numb emotions, cause sleep problems, academic impairments and most importantly contribute to real-life violent behavior. On the other hand, many researchers have questioned this stance and argue that the majority of youth are not affected by violent video games and remain convinced that playing these types of games may be a part of normal development.
Clearly, there are many uncertainties and questions about the influence that violent video games may have on children. The good news is there are a few simple things that parents can do to protect their children from potential harm. These precautions may help:
- Limit the amount of time children spend playing video games. The AAP recommends two hours or less of total “screen” time per day (including television, computers, and video games).
- Put TV’s and computers in common areas- not in children’s bedrooms.
- Play video games with children to better understand the content and how they react.
- Check ratings.
- Encourage participation in sports and school activities.
- Pay attention to “red-flags” such as, anger, depression, impulsivity and isolation.
When it comes to video games, moderation is the key. The most important thing is to help children find a healthy, happy, balance in their lives.