Sensible Policy on Video Games
Q. We have
daughters, not sons, and I'm glad, because I hate to see some of the awful,
violent video games that boys are playing these days. They're scary! What does
science know about the impact on their personalities from all these "war" and
violent video games can increase aggressive behavior in children and
adolescents, according to a review of the last 20 years of research presented
at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. The group
has 150,000 members, many of whom cite aggression as a key problem in their
individual practices. These video games are making aggression worse, both in
the short term, and in the long run. And you're right: this is scary.
According to researchers
Jessica Nicoll and Kevin M. Kieffer of Saint Leo University, youth who played
violent video games for a short time, as few as 10 minutes, experienced an
increase in aggressive behavior following the video game.
In another study of over
600 eighth- and ninth-graders, the youth who spent more time playing violent
video games were rated by their teachers as more hostile than other children in
the study. The children who played more violent video games had more arguments
with authority figures and were more likely to be involved in physical
altercations with other students. They also performed more poorly on academic
video game players "tend to imitate the moves that they just 'acted out'
in the game they played," said Dr. Kieffer of the Saint Leo University
study. For example, children who played violent karate games duplicated this
type of behavior while playing with friends.
demonstrate the possible dangers associated with playing this type of video
game over and over again.
The authors also found
that boys tend to play video games for longer periods of time than girls. Boys
may play more of these types of video games, said Kieffer, because women are
portrayed in subordinate roles and the girls may find less incentive to play.
But those girls who did play violent video games, according to the review, were
more likely to prefer playing with an aggressive toy and were more aggressive
Finally, children and
adolescents who are attracted to the violent content in the games are likely to
be more vulnerable to the effects of that exposure, according to the review.
Nicoll and Kieffer approve
of putting age limits and rating systems on games to make it more difficult for
young children to purchase and play them. But, say the psychologists,
"future research needs to explore why many children and adolescents prefer
to play a violent video game rather than play outside, and why certain
personalities are drawn to these types of games."
parent is supposed to do what's in the child's best interests, not necessarily
what's popular. So in the case of violent video games, especially in view of
the direct connection to aggressive, anti-social behavior, a smart parent
should ban their child from playing them. That's not censorship; only the
government can censor anything. Parents, on the other hand, can be selective in
what influences they allow into their child's heart and mind. That's not
censorship: that's sensible! That means telling the parents of your child's
friends about your decision, too, so that your child doesn't just go over to
his friends' houses to play. That will make you even MORE unpopular. But too
bad. It's the right thing to do. For more about this controversy, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_controversy