We are all aware – sometimes through gruesome reminders – about the detrimental effect of violence. Parents are always worried if overexposure to violent video games can lead to children growing numb to cruelty. Psychologists warn us parents, about the violence in games, but, studies also talk about how violent video games can help children release their aggression. Psychologists also agree that not everyone who plays violent games turns violent. Much of the violent behavior exhibited by some kids could be a result of poor home environments, or abusive upbringing.
Changing Physical Play
Younger children need to have a lot of unstructured play. But, as they grow and socialize, time spent on gaming increases. Many a time they play with friends on Massively Multiplayer Online(MMO) Games. Kids and young adults are recommended to have about an hour's physical activity a day. Interesting new studies show that active video gaming burns more energy, especially the newer dance games, in comparison to physical play!
Anyway, in a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on the internet, and with children having easier access to a massive amount of uncensored content and games, how do we protect our children? As parents, we must understand that age appropriateness cannot be overemphasized, be it gaming or the movies. What are the measures that we can take to reduce their exposure to inappropriate games?
Introduce a Variety of Video Games
A blanket ban on games is not something we would advocate. We cannot slot all video games as inappropriate. Educational games are a safe bet. There are also a variety of games that are simply about having fun, like music games or puzzle games that are worth considering. With the coming of age of motion sensors and accelerometers dance games are very popular. Try building games, escape room games, math games, online traditional games like chess or scrabble etc.
Use the Rating System
How we measure violence in games can vary – for some it could be the sight of guns and slaughter, for others it could be the use of profane language. Still others would strongly object to even a hint of bullying. What is right and what is wrong is sometimes a matter of perspective.
Many games come with a rating to indicate the age group for which they are appropriate. We can test drive or read reviews of these games before allowing kids to access them. An active participation is often all that it takes, though I must admit it is easier said than done. By turning playing video games into a family affair, you can not only monitor what games a child plays but also have a grand time together!
Create Alternatives to Gaming
Creating an environment that is rich in entertainment choices for children can redirect their attention from just video games. This could mean sports, visiting the park, biking around the neighborhood, reading, or even hobby classes. This will naturally balance out the time a child spends on video games, and reduces the chances of kids looking to video games as their only source of entertainment. If that happens, they may get bored easily and may constantly look for new games that are inappropriate while being addictive.
But at some point we must step back and let our children make their own choices. Keeping them away from violent TV shows, games and movies may not teach them to stay away from violence. We are simply protecting them by monitoring their access. Dialogues and activities that teach children about kindness and help them understand the negative impact of violent behavior is necessary and will support kids when they are ready to make independent decisions.
To wind up, video games is currently a changing landscape, and we must use our common sense in helping our kids stay safe.
George Schalter loves being a dad. He and his wife share the joys and responsibilities of bringing up their two children. As believers of good all round education, they spend a lot of time playing with their children and spending time outdoors. As George is the writer in the family, he blogs at Educational Kids Games. You can also find him over at Facebook, Twitter, Google+