For decades, people have been concerned with the effect video games might have, especially on children. From claims that it prevents socialisation and physical activity to the idea that it actually promotes and encourages violent and aggressive behaviour, parents are often given a myriad of negative perspectives on video games.
As a parent, I have always looked in a little more depth at issues before coming to a decision. We’re all fairly aware these days of how the media can skew the facts to make their stories more sensational. There have been plenty of newspaper stories about how some shooting massacre was caused by the perpetrator playing a video game beforehand. Of course, they could have just taken one of the other many stories written to the same effect about certain music or films and pasted in the name of whichever Call of Duty has just come out.
Firstly, I’ll look at my personal experience. I really enjoy playing video games. One of my favourites is Dragon Age. I love the role playing and fantasy elements of the game but I also enjoy the combat. Yes, I like it when I manage to slay a few big nasty monsters with a gigantic sword or else set them on fire with my magical powers. I say ‘I’ and ‘my’ because it is a role playing game. You take on the part of the character. And yet, I have never been violent towards anyone. This is also true of the other many, many people I know well who have played very violent video games.
Next, let’s take a quick look at history. The absolute earliest form of video game was created in 1947. That’s 68 years ago, a comparatively tiny fraction of our existence. But violence and aggression is found throughout. In fact, taking a quick look at the statistics shows that violent crime in the UK has, in fact, been decreasing over the last twenty years. Surely if during that time more and more of us have been taking part in an activity that causes violent behaviour, you’d expect that figure to be rising?
So if video games don’t cause violent behaviour, is there anything we need to worry about in our children playing them?
I know plenty of parents who, through conversations in person, through twitter and various online forums, have asked if a certain game is appropriate for their child. The phrases ‘but they keep asking for it’ and ‘all of their friends play it’ seem to crop up quite a bit in these discussions. Personally, I plan to take the same approach I would for any other kind of media I’m trying to decide if my daughter can make use of. I’d play the game, or at least look at reviews. I’d ask myself if any of the content (not just violent but also sexual) is too graphic or disturbing for her. If I think it is, I will tell her so and not let her have the game. If she goes to a friend’s house, I will politely ask that friend’s parents if they can make sure the game in question is not used while she’s there. In our house, we are not big fans of censoring anything without a good reason to (this is a bit of a seperate issue will probably form another blog post in the future).
The next issue is how long should children play games for. There are concerns about lack of socialisation and time outdoors and even as far as addiction. Firstly, all of the evidence currently points to a small percentage of people being susceptible to addiction of video games. The likelihood is that these people are probably prone to addictive behaviour anyway. (Please take note of the language I’m using. I’m totally aware that a new study could be published tomorrow showing that this is a much bigger risk than previously thought and I would then look into the issue again and perhaps change my position accordingly). It’s something you should definitely try to be aware of, since addictive behaviour is something your child might need help with.
I do set time limits on playing video games. I want my daughter to participate in lots of different activities and there are things like homework and reading practice that take priority. She loves the outdoors – frankly I think she’d be pretty distraught at the prospect of sitting indoors playing games all day!
Basically my opinion on the issue is this: video games are not going to cause children harm as long as they’re appropriate (looked at on an individual basis by parents) and they do lots of other things as well.
What do you think? Are you worried about video games?