What do I need to know about video games and kids?
Many video games emphasize autonomous action rather than cooperation, violence over creative conflict resolution, and depict others as aggressive adversaries. It's no wonder that many parents and experts are concerned about what kids learn from these games. On the other hand, video games can teach valuable skills, improve hand-eye coordination and provide enjoyable recreation. Playing video games can affect kids' attention, empathy, aggression, and other traits. It also may be replacing activities that are better for your child's learning and healthy development, such as reading or playing outside.
- How video games affect your child may depend on their temperament or personality.
- Some kinds of games can help improve dexterity and problem-solving.
- ERIC Digest: Video Games: Research, Ratings, Recommendations—This Digest reviews research on the demographics and effects of video game playing, discusses game rating systems, and offers recommendations for parents.
- Also in Spanish: Juegos de videos: Investigacion, puntajes y recomendaciones
- Researchers have found that playing video games is associated with greater attention problems in childhood that persist into the late teen and early adult years. The effects on attention were similar to what has been found for watching TV.
- PBS has a Web site for its show The Video Game Revolution, which examines the evolution and history of the video game industry, the impact of video games on society and culture, and the future of electronic gaming. Two essays of interest are:
- Do you know what video games your children are playing?—this issue is of interest, since about 2/3 of gamers are adults, yet parents tend to assume that games are made for kids, and they don't pay attention to what their kids are playing.
- Eight myths about video games debunked takes on what the author sees as common misperceptions in the public.
Game ratings and reviews can help parents decide what games are right for their kids, but ratings are no substitute for actually playing games to really know what the content is like.
Also, many parents think the ratings are too lax. In addition to game ratings, parents can consult video game reviews and watch segments of the game on the Internet—for example, on youtube. This will give parents an idea of what the games are like, without buying the game and playing it.
For kids, restrictive ratings (such as "M for mature audiences 17 and older") and violent content codes (like "this game contains blood and gore") are like magnets that can draw kids to video games with objectionable content . In short, game ratings make video games “forbidden fruits.”
- From the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Video Games: Set your own ratings system.
- Game ratings and descriptor guide—be sure to check both the rating and the content descriptors on the back. These descriptors, such as "fantasy violence," "blood and gore," "suggestive themes," and "use of tobacco" can help you know exactly what sort of content in the game may be of concern.
- Common Sense Media offers video game reviews for families.
- Violent video games can increase aggression both in the short and long terms.
- Some kids may be more affected than others—A recent study indicates that kids with certain personality or temperament traits may become more hostile from playing violent video games than those without the traits.
- Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media from the American Psychological Association.
- Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children: Congressional Public Health Summit—a statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Psychiatric Association.
Related topics on YourChild:
- Media and Media Literacy
- Television—find out what the research says about how TV affects kids
- Managing Television: Tips for Your Family
- Internet Safety
- Reading and Your Child
Related YourChild Podcasts:
Compiled by Kyla Boyse, RN. Reviewed by Brad Bushman, PhD.
Updated August 2010
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