Die, Filthy Space Alien Scum: Kids and Video Game Violence

Filed under: Tweens, Teens, Activities: Babies, Development/Milestones: Babies, Media, Toys, Gadgets, Kids' Games

Set limits on gaming time. Credit: Corbis

Zombie bodies fall to the ground, spurting blood. The gunner stops to reload and turns to face an entire army of half-decomposed corpses, advancing slowly, menacingly towards him.

Sounds familiar?

If you are the parent of a child between the ages of 8 and 18, it is more than likely that you have seen this or a similar scenario played out on your computer or television screen lately.

According to the Media Literacy Clearinghouse,
children in this age bracket are spending, on average, one hour and 29 minutes everyday playing video games. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than 80 percent have at least one video gaming system in the home.

This means that for many children, games are exerting a large degree of influence in their everyday lives.

Parents have long been concerned with their children being exposed to violence. And with good reason. The American Psychological Association states that studies consistently show that children who frequently play violent video games exhibit higher levels of violent behavior and a decrease in pro-social or "helping" behaviors.

One of the biggest problems with violence in video games is that it is typically shown to have no negative consequences. There is no right and wrong. For example, in the game "Grand Theft Auto," stealing cars gets you extra points rather than jail time.

So does this mean that you should unplug the XBox and toss it into the fireplace? Don't do it just yet.

Experts point out that video games can offer many positive learning experiences, aside from being an enjoyable hobby for your child. The key is to offer age-appropriate guidelines and supervision where video games are concerned. Following are some tips for developing such guidelines:

1. Know your child. All children are different. It is important that you understand your own child and how he or she reacts to various situations.

For example: Is your child sensitive? Does he or she have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality? Assessing your child's temperament and development can help you decide whether a game is right for her. If you have a 10-year-old who has nightmares about clowns, getting a game about a spooky carnival may not be the best choice.

2. Understand the video game rating system. In both the United States and Canada, video games are assigned one of six ratings by the Entertainment Ratings Software Board (ERSB). They are:

  • EC: Early Childhood. These games are intended for preschool-aged children (3 and above) and do not contain any type of violent material.
  • E: Everyone. Games that are rated E are considered appropriate for all family members, aged 6 and up, although they may contain some "comic mischief" or very minimal violence.
  • E10+: These games may contain mild violence or suggestive themes and are not recommended for children under 10.
  • T: Games that are rated T for Teens may have violence, suggestive material and/or strong language. These games may be appropriate for children 13 and over.
  • M and AO: Games that are rated M for Mature and AO for Adults Only are not considered appropriate for children under 18 and may contain heavy violence, graphic sexual content and strong language.

3. Supervise your children. Be aware of how much time your children are spending playing video games and what they are playing. Spend time playing games with them if possible and set clear limits on the types of games and the amount of time that children are allowed to play. Keeping video gaming systems in a public space can help make supervision much easier.

4. Rent video games before you purchase them. Renting a video game gives you a chance to preview the content of the game prior to making a purchase.

5. Consider choosing video games, with the input of your children, that the entire family can enjoy together.
Nintendo's Wii entertainment system is a popular choice for many families, as it offers a wide range of games for all ages and interests and requires physical activity.

Most importantly, however, experts point out that the best way to limit the amount of time that your child spends playing video games is to simply be involved with them, and regularly engage in family activities.

Shooting alien scum may have its place as one form of entertainment, but it cannot and should not replace other activities.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.