Thursday, July 5, 2012

Are Video Games Safe for Children?

Video games effects on children have been a long standing debate. Many parents are fearful that video games will make their child violent or cause behavior problems.  After reviewing the literature it sounds like the debate is not over. More quality research is needed. With that being said I can tell you what I learned.

One common thread in all the research is moderation is important, but ‘how much is too much’ is not defined.  Most of the research linked video games and TV as having similar effects.

A review of the literature by Frölich et al pointed out that there are populations of children that are more at risk to negative effects of violent video games or TV. Children with ADHD, ODD, and children that grew up in violent homes are more likely to respond poorly to violence in video games. In his research he points out that these children are already at high risk to be violent no matter what the stimulus. The research confirms that children in stable, non violent homes are less likely to show negative sides effects after playing video games.

A study by Greitemeyer and Osswald pointed out that children that played “prosocial” video games were more likely to help when seeing someone in need compared to peers that did not play pro social video games. They also suggest that video game can provide an outlet, like sports, to work through aggression and can lead to better mental functioning and lower levels of aggression.

Many studies have pointed out that playing video games can improve hand eye coordination, increased peripheral attention, and increased reactive decision-making skills. This can be a great tool if you have a child struggling in any of these areas.

Another fear people question about video games is if it confuses children’s conception of reality. The Supreme Court case Schwarzenegger vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, found that “the ability to differentiate automatically between real and virtual violence has not been diminished by a long-term history of violent video game play, nor have gamers' neural responses to real violence, in particular, been subject to desensitization processes.” This means video games do not cause people to have trouble knowing what is real or pretend.

Anti social children can use video games to further their anti social tendencies. If you are a parent of one of these children you can compromise by agreeing to your child only playing video games that have a social component to them and buy them a head set so they can participate in the socialization.  This form of socialization can form a bridge to build confidence and help them to make friends face to face.

To conclude, if we use common sense with our video games, our children should be protected. One truth we know is that what we expose ourselves to influences us. So monitor your children’s video games. Buy video games that promote the values you have.  

For more detailed review of the literature go to:

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