Violent video games are one of the most popular activities for kids today. When they are not playing, they are watching someone else play them on YouTube or talking with their friends about the game or using it as the base for pretend play.
I keep hearing that research shows no connection between violent video games and the increase in violence we are experiencing today. So, I looked at the research. I must say, I am confused. I found research saying that violent video games leads to increased aggressive behavior and decreased empathy. This sounds like a connection to me.
The APA (American Psychological Association) put together a task force last year to review the existing research. They "concluded that violent video game use is a risk factor for adverse outcomes, but found insufficient studies to examine any potential link between violent video game use and delinquency or criminal behavior".
Two factors stood out to me. One was the length of time playing violent video games within the studies. They ranged from a few minutes, to a 20 minutes over a few days, to a few months. I did not find any study that measured hours of play for months at a time, which is the reality. The second factor is the age of the participants. Many of the studies had adults as participants. An adults response, reaction and understanding will be different than a child's.
As a parent, this is personal.
You have to take all this information in and use it to make an individual decision for your family. The research can provide insights but the ultimately measure is your child's behavior.
How does your son or daughter behavior after playing violent video games? What is the behavior like if it is just 20 minutes of playing? How is their behavior after 2 hours? What happens when they play for 5 hours with a friend? What are your kids like when they don't play video games for an entire weekend? Pay attention. If you see changes in their behavior, factor that into your family technology rules.
Educate yourself about what your child is playing. Know the games your child is playing and how they work. Too many families I talk with don't know what their kids are doing during screen time. It is important that you stay informed.
How do you do this? Once a week, take 10 minutes and watch them play video games. The best way to educate yourself is to be in the action, watch what they are doing and how they engage. This along with noticing their behavior after playing is powerful information when deciding what is best for your children and video games.
If you decide to make changes - go slow. It can be tempting to have your kids go cold turkey but that is like a crash diet. It might be powerful for a day or two but they don't last. Gradually decrease time played if you are looking to make a change. One small step at a time.
Want to hear more about this topic? Yesterday John Pattie, from WBAL New Radio 1090 aired a piece on just this topic. I was one of the experts he interviewed. Listen here.
Remember is that this is an ongoing decision. Video games are constantly evolving, as is your child's behavior. Each month re-evaluate the time spent on video games and the games played. Make a new rules when needed to ensure that your children grow up to be amazing adults!