Photot by Buzz Farmers

August 12, 2016

Apps, Violence

Should Kids Be Playing Violent Video Games?

Ever since video games became widely available, there have been debates among parents and specialists about the effects video games might have on kids. These debates have become even uneven and contentious since violence in video games has become the norm. Now when parents must make a decision about the kinds of things their children will be allowed to do on their devices, they must consider not only the physical effects of sedentariness and excessive screen exposure, but also the potential mental effects of normalized violence.

Photot by Buzz Farmers

Photo by Buzz Farmers

While for some parents, the decision to ban violent video games from the household is an easy one, for others it’s less clear if the potential negative effects of violent video games presents sufficient cause for real worry. To make the decision more difficult, not all specialists agree on the question of whether or not violent video games present a significant risk for changing a child’s behavior.

Whether your child has already asked to play a violent video game or you are simply trying to make up your mind about where you stand on the issue, here are a few things to keep in mind about what the research suggests about kids and violent video games and what kinds of things you can do to settle fair and consistent rules in your household.

Some Things To Know

  • According to a study cited by WebMD in 2015, while researchers did find a correlation between playing video games and the development of hyperactive and impetuous behaviors, the same statistics did not hold true when researchers limited their attention to violent video games. In fact, the study did not suggest any significant correlation between violent or negative behaviors and playing violent games.
  • A similar study from Iowa State University cited by Time in 2014 found that while there was a correlation between hours spent playing a violent video game and the likelihood that a child would consider it okay to respond to a conflict in a violent way, the tendency to resort to violent behaviors decreased as the age of the sample group increased, confirming beliefs that older kids are better able to distinguish between what is appropriate for a video game and what is not appropriate in real life.
  • In a 2015 article in Psychology Today, Doctor Eileen Kennedy-Moore weighs in on an American Psychology Association study that found evidence of a small link between violent video games and violent behaviors, noting that the study couldn’t adequately separate the effects of violent video games from the effects of other various homelife factors like excessive punishments, poverty, school problems, and peer rejection,  all of which are also known to cause violence in kids. For this reason, she suggests, we can’t know much at this point about long-term connections between video games and violent behaviors.
  • If there are negative effects from violent video games, it may be that those effects will decrease over time. In studies that did establish a link between changes in behavior and violent video games, the changed behaviors decreased as time went on. However, there may be a cumulative effect from playing video games such that playing even just a little bit each day may change the way people respond to problems.
  • There are some positive effects from video games, including violent ones. There is evidence to suggest that when kids playing violent games in groups, for example in games that require friends to play together to strategize, there is evidence that kids become better at cooperating and problem solving. There is also much anecdotal evidence to support the claim that playing violent video games can provide a healthy outlet for teens to vent frustrations.

Some Parenting Strategies

With this information in mind, here are some steps you might consider as you make up your mind on your stance on violent video games in your household.

  • Whatever your policy is on violent video games, it should be consistent with your policy on video games in general. There is evidence to suggest that the negative effects of video games are largely the result of the sedentariness of the activity and attention problems that have been linked with excessive screen time. Treat violent video games the same way you would treat any video game in your household.
  • Consider installing child protection software like Rated 4 Kids on your household computers and devices. With one of these programs, you can monitor and limit the amount of hours that your kids can spend on any given app, website, or game. This can help you maintain concrete limits on how much video game time is acceptable in your household.
  • Recognize that not all video games are created equal. Know how to use the rating recommendations that video game developers assign to their games. Make sure that your kids are only playing games that are appropriate to their age groups.
  • Keep a close eye on that credit card! A known problem with devices like tablets and smartphones is the ease with which you can make app and in-app purchases. And some kids will take advantage of a lax eye on the credit card bill to make downloads you might not notice.