It’s estimated that boys spend as many as 13 hours a week playing computer or video games while girls spend an average of 5 hours per week. As with everything else in our world, games are evolving and the graphics and the characters are becoming more advanced and more realistic.
Boys are particularly attracted to games which feature war-like scenes or games in which they are soldiers, assassins, etc. Do we need to be more vigilant about how kids are spending their time and should we be concerned about the effects that these violent and very graphic games are having on our kids?
It’s a known fact that computer games (including games for Wii, X-Box, etc.) are becoming a lot more violent. It would seem that we are breeding a generation who yearn for violence and who are not content with a game in which there are no aggressive and brutal shooting or graphic dying scenes and where there is not an arsenal of weapons to choose from! However, does the playing of these games really condone violence and are the children who spend hours glued to screens being adversely affected?
Scientists and psychologists have spent many hours researching this topic. Although many players and parents believe that the studies were unable to offer concrete or solid proof that violent games are capable of turning children into violent or aggressive adults, there are dozens of violent incidents which have been directly linked to the playing of violent games. These include:
On April 20, 1999, 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher in the Columbine High School massacre. The two were allegedly obsessed with the video game Doom. Harris also created WADs for the game, and created a large mod named “Tier” which he called his “life’s work”.
In April 2000, 16-year-old Spanish teenager JosÃ© RabadÃ¡n Pardo murdered his father, mother and his sister with a katana, proclaiming that he was on an “avenging mission” by Squall Leonhart, the main character of the video game Final Fantasy VIII.
In June 2008, four teens allegedly obsessed with Grand Theft Auto IV went on a crime spree after being in New Hyde Park, New York. They first robbed a man, knocking his teeth out and then they stopped a woman driving a black BMW and stole her car and her cigarettes.
The above incidences may be examples of the extreme cases of how playing violent video games can lead to acts of violence but the fact of the matter is that each incident was sparked because of a computer game.
What the studies were also able to prove is that kids who spend hours killing virtual characters in their games are desensitized to reality. The violent video games do not teach a child moral consequences, in fact they encourage the opposite. When virtual characters are shot or killed in a game, the player is not reprimanded or punished but they are in fact rewarded by earning additional points for their actions. This may not mean that the child will rush out into the real world and attempt to shoot someone (to earn points) however, studies have shown that kids who spend endless hours a day playing violent games use more aggressive language and their ability to control their anger is diminished.
Games not suitable for children
So many parents have no idea of what games their children are playing. Here are lists of some games which have been described as the most violent and which are not suitable for kids at all:
- Assassin’s Creed II. The game is realistic and historically correct. The player assumes the role of an assassin and they have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal.
- Borderlands. Contains strong language and human enemies are used as target practice. The game contains mature humour and there is a lot of blood and gore.
- Brutal Legend. A cartoon fantasy action game but players use a lethal double-sided axe to hack the game’s demonic armies.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The player is able to go undercover as an enemy terrorist.
- Dead Space: Extraction. This is probably one of the most graphic games and it shows blood spurting out of the bodies of the victims, human carcasses littering the floor, walls stained with blood and there are realistic screams of torture (definitely not for kids!)
- Dragon Age: Origins
- Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
- Demon’s Souls
- Left 4 Dead 2
- Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Protect your child
Parents have to know what games their kids are playing and they need to stop them from playing excessively violent games that make them numb to death, dying, killing, etc. Parents should be aware of how to read the video game ratings which have been established by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. All video and computer games are rated for age appropriateness and the ratings are found on the front of the game packaging. If your child does not have the packaging, load the game and view the contents for yourself.
Even if your child is not playing violent video games, limit the time they spend playing electronic games or the time they spend in front of the computer.
If your child is addicted to video games, make sure that their computer or laptop is moved out of their room and put into a place where you can monitor the content of their games and where you can limit the time they spend playing games.
Not all bad news
Although violent video games have given digital games a bad name, there are many pros to playing age-appropriate video games. Several studies have showed the positive effects of video games on aspects of social and cognitive development and psychological well-being. What’s more, children who play video games for a suitable amount of time have enhanced hand-eye coordination and video games are also able to improve the player’s intelligence and help them to become better problem solvers. When social video games are played, the child’s social aptitude is improved.