“Congratulations, level 1 is complete! You’ve received 100,000 points, plus a bonus of 10,000 points for your record time! Your new mission is to protect your village. Good luck.”
This statement and ones like it are being heard by children and teenagers all over the world, but what you may not realize as a parent is that in order to complete the next level, your child has to kill 100 virtual soldiers. We as future parents are concerned about this topic of video game content. Even if you are not a parent, it is important to be educated about the effects of violent video games because not only is it something you may have to deal with in the future with your own children, but it can also creep into your own life at any time. If you are able to prevent this virtual violence from entering into your home, you can save yourself and your children a lot of trouble and heartache in the future.
So, how is the content in video games affecting children and families? Many video games portray violence, fighting, and even murder. As children become more involved in these games, the fantasy leaves the virtual world and becomes reality. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that the content of video games negatively affects children, especially those gamers who play violent video games for many hours during the week. Out of a sample consisting of 364 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-graders, the average amount of time per week playing video games was 16 to 18 hours. As a result, “habitual violent video game play early in the school year predicted later aggression”1 .
The impact that video games has on children is astounding. By playing these violent games, children become desensitized to what is real and what is in the video game. Punching, shooting, beating, and other forms of physical abuse and violence allow a gamer to advance to the next level. This is a reward for those children playing the game- killing one hundred people to move on to the next level. By doing so, children then confuse this viral world of video games with real life where there are consequences, both emotionally and physically, instead of points and rewards.
When comparing the effects of violent video games and violent TV programs, video games are often reported as having a more harmful effect on the “player”. Watching television is a passive interaction where the viewer can sit idly by and observe the violence taking place while a player in a video game is taking an active part in the violence. Because games are based on allowing one to identify with one player and control them, they often view themselves as the character and personally accept the approving praise after killing fellow players only to reinforce that violent behavior. “Some people think that you get your anger out in video games, but studies show that video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal, and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others” 2.
All in, violent video games are desensitizing us and our children from the natural human emotions we were born with, and instead, replacing them with feelings of anger, aggression and neglect towards others. What would a society look like if everyone had this attitude? It would be complete chaos, a real-life video game except you don’t come back to life when killed.
Is there anything good about video games?
Video games do have some positive aspects; hand-eye coordination being one. However, the content is what makes the negative outweigh the positive. If video games were to change their content to not be so violent, or make it less accessible to those who are not ready for such content, then maybe this epidemic of video games being harmful would end. However, that does not seem like an immediate option.
So, what can we do as parents to regulate what our children (and/or ourselves) view and participate in as far as video games are concerned? Here are some tips and helps provided by Dr. Phil:
1. Understand and utilize the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Then read beyond the ratings- for example, the casing of the video game, talk to other parents or reviews online
2. Know your child and how he or she responds to different gaming situations
3. Rent before you buy
4. Play the game with your child so you understand the content
5. Talk about what you see and set limits
6. Put the TV and games in a public place 3
We need to take more of an active role, monitoring the content that comes through our television through video games. Exposure to violence through video games is damaging to the physical and emotional well-being of our children. This damage is both immediate and long lasting. Protect your family today from the media that comes into your home. Take a stance and act now to protect your future generation.
About the authors:
Hi! Our names are Tia, Hailey, Christi, and Hayley. We are currently students at Brigham Young University-Idaho. While none of us have any children yet we have a passion for protecting families. We want to spread the word on what people can do to protect their children and prevent harmful things from entering their homes while their children are young. We have personal experience with the negative effects of bad media and we want to spare families the heartache and trials that come with it. Help us let our voice be heard so we can help people protect their families today!