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Posts Tagged ‘teens’

Today’s topic is one that comes up often in discussions on screen time: are video games safe for my children to play? It is a complicated question with no easy answer, but I wanted to share some of the latest research.

It is first helpful to define what we mean by a video game. Games have a wide variety of intended audiences and purposes. They range from education focused (like math or words games) to competitive skills games (like sports and racing) to those that are primarily focused on killing and violence. University of Minnesota Extension offers some positive results from the healthy, balanced use of video games. These include increasing motivation for children, quick and clear feedback about performance, and they can promote a feeling of mastery for their participants.

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on research about violent games, because these are usually the games parents and grandparents are most concerned about.

First off be familiar with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings listed on the box. E is appropriate for Everyone, age 6 and up. E+ is appropriate for ages 10 and up. T means appropriate for Teens or youth age 12 and up. M ratings are for mature audiences and are not appropriate for any age youth. Parents are responsible to use these ratings, as most stores do not enforce them.

Over the past few years, there has been conflicting research data presented from media on the actual effects of playing violent video games. For decades, Brad Bushman at The Ohio State University has been studying this topic. In 2012 his study found that people who played a violent video game for three consecutive days showed increases in aggressive behavior and hostile expectations from others each day they played. Those who played nonviolent games did not. His more recent study last year found that children who played violent video games were more likely to play with real guns.

However, the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford recently found no relationship between aggressive behavior in teenagers and the amount of time spent playing violent video games. Experts from Common Sense Media cite there are lots of factors that will determine whether kids will become aggressive, antisocial, or apathetic towards others.

The following information from the American Academy of Pediatrics Media Violence Policy is incredibly helpful. “Some research has indicated that the context in which media violence is portrayed and consumed can make the difference between learning about violence and learning to be violent. Plays such as Macbeth and films such as Saving Private Ryan treat violence as what it is—a human behavior that causes suffering, loss, and sadness to victims and perpetrators. In this context, with helpful adult guidance on the real costs and consequences of violence, appropriately mature adolescent viewers can learn the danger and harm of violence by vicariously experiencing its outcomes.”

I have found the most recent research studies focus more on the “loss of good” behavior rather than the “increase of bad” behavior. Research at Loyola University Chicago compared the brains of gamers and non-gamers and results suggest chronic violent gameplay may affect emotional brain processing or ability to show empathy. Additionally, some of the actions players are able to do in the game simulations are concerning; especially with the treatment of women. I am personally surprised there are not more studies examining the potential of violent and sexually suggestive games as a gateway to domestic violence and pornography.

Be very familiar with any game your child is playing. Read up about it. And if you decide to exclude these games from your home, have an honest and open dialogue with your teen about why.

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Olson, K.A. University of Minnesota Extension. (2009) Video games: A problem or a blessing? https://extension.umn.edu/communication-and-screen-time/video-games-problem-or-blessing

Entertainment Software Rating Board. (2020) https://www.esrb.org/ratings-guide/

Ohio State News. (December 9, 2012) Violent Video Games: More Playing Time Equals More Aggression. https://news.osu.edu/violent-video-games-more-playing-time-equals-more-aggression/

The Ohio State University School of Communication. (October 4, 2017) Bushman co-authors study on violent media and children’s interest in guns. https://comm.osu.edu/news/bushman-co-authors-study-violent-media-and-children%E2%80%99s-interest-guns

Przybylski, A.K. and Weinstein, N. Royal Society Open Science. Volume 6, Issue 2 (February 2019) Oxford Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents’ aggressive behaviour: evidence from a registered report https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.171474

Common Sense Media. (2014) Does exposure to violent movies or video games make kids more aggressive?  https://www.commonsensemedia.org/violence-in-the-media/does-exposure-to-violent-movies-or-video-games-make-kids-more-aggressive

Pediatrics Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2001) Media Violence. (https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/108/5/1222.full.pdf

Stockdale, L. Loyola University Chicago. (2015) The Influence of Media Violence on the Neural Correlates of Empathic Emotional Response https://ecommons.luc.edu/luc_diss/1495/

Photo: https://www.pickpik.com/video-controller-video-game-controller-remote-control-gaming-console-game-43645

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