Do You Ever Wonder About the Effects of Video Games on Your Child?
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, your son or daughter plays video games. You may even see changes in him or her already which may have sparked your curiosity on this topic. The truth is, there’s a lot of mixed feedback about how, and if, video games impact youth. You will need to make your own decision on the level of gaming your child does.
Mixed Research on the Effects of Video Games
Research conclusions point to the belief that playing violent video games, particularly those where gamers take on the persona of the game character, can increase a person’s aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior. [Dill, K. E. (2000]. In addition, there’s a connection between playing violent video games and impulsivity, and the inability to maintain focus. [Gentile, D. A., & Swing, E. L. (2012)].
Another consideration is if your child has certain personality traits (easily agitated, emotional, low empathy, low respect for societal rules or social norms, etc.), s/he will be affected even more. These findings are particularly noteworthy if your child has ADD/ADHD, is naturally prone to more emotional concerns, or struggles socially beyond what may be considered age appropriate.
On the positive side, some video games have an educational component. At this point, the general consensus is that more research is needed to determine if educational games benefit learners. So far, however, studies show that educational games in a classroom are more effective at engaging students than traditional teaching methods. (Novotney, 2015).
What to Consider
Based on my clinical experience, I can see two sides to this on-going debate about whether or not video games have an unhealthy influence on people. On the one hand, children and teens love these games, no matter the level of violence or competitiveness. Youth tend to virtually “meet up” with others when playing, so they may see it as somewhat of a social thing. In addition, parents often struggle with setting limits around the games because their children strongly desire to play them.
The idea of “play” seems to have shifted in this generation. You, as a parent, may see games as a good incentive to get your kids to do certain things (e.g. schoolwork). Another seemingly positive thing about video games is that youth who play video games seem to spend a lot of time doing so; therefore, games can be a good “babysitter,” if you will.
However, as mentioned above, there’s a lot of research out which suggests that gaming is not the best influence. Maybe you believe these games are not good for your kids to play, but just have no idea how to change the situation.
It may also seem impossible to set limits around gaming because, oftentimes, teens say there’s “nothing” else they want to do, or work toward. This can make it more difficult for you to dissuade your kids from engaging in these activities.
Factors for Parents to Consider
- Do your children balance their time? In other words, do they spend their time engaging in multiple activities (e.g. gaming, sports, school work, social gatherings, family time, etc.)? Or are they filling most of their free time with video games?
- Are the games they play age appropriate? Many youth play games that are rated “M” for mature. I would say that this type is not appropriate for underage children, as professionals have rated these games with reason.
- Do the games allow other people to communicate with your child virtually (either via typing/texting, or by voice)? While this feature is technologically impressive, there’s no way to know anything about the person interacting with your children. Predators often trick children into believing they are also children (disguising their voice, etc), and then work their way toward inappropriate conversation.
Decide for Yourself if the Effects of Video Games Are Negatively Impacting Your Child
I always suggest that you not take my word only on this subject. Instead, I encourage you to do your own research, not only by reading articles from reputable resources, but also by observing behaviors within your home.
Are you concerned about the amount of time your child spends playing video games? Have you noticed an increase in profanity, or aggressiveness of any kind, from your child? Has there been a personality or mood change since playing?
Consider balancing what you learn from reading materials or research with your own observations of your child/adolescent. Take note of how s/he was prior to being introduced to gaming, observe him/her while playing, and really pay attention to how s/he changes after ending a game session.
In addition to the above-mentioned personality and mood changes, is there an inability to accept or tolerate others? Is it difficult for him/her to stop playing? Does playing video games get in the way of other activities such as doing homework, spending face-to-face time with peers, engaging socially in sports, after school clubs or extracurricular activities?
These are all factors to consider when looking at the effects of video games on your child. And perhaps you will discover others as well, when considering how best to proceed with what you learn.
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The information in this report is based on my own research, obtained from reputable websites, as well as observing the effects of video games during my clinical experience with multiple youth. The research referenced include the websites American Psychological Association (www.apa.org) and National Institute of Health, National Institute for Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov).
- Dill, K. E. (2000). Violent Video Games can Increase Aggression. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2000/04/video-games.aspx
- Violent Video Games May Increase Aggression in Some But Not Others, Says New Research. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/06/violent-video-games.aspx
- Gentile, D. A., & Swing, E. L. (2012). Study: Impulsive Kids May Play More Video Games. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1(1). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/02/impulsive-kids.aspx
- Novotney, A. (2015). Gaming To Learn. Monitor on Psychology, 46(4), 46. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/04/gaming.aspx
Psychological Association (www.apa.org)
National Institute of Health, National Institute for Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov).
All images are used for illustrative purposes only. Any person shown is strictly a model.