“It is just a game!” Is this a common response from your children when you question the violent content of their video games? It is possible that children, teens and adults can be negatively impacted by playing these games for an extended amount of time. There is a lack of research for long term effects in this area, but there are numerous valid studies on possible short term effects. It is concerning that the some of the most popular games today all involve the following behaviors:
1) The killing of people and animals (Call of Duty Black Ops, Bulletstorm, Manhunt 2, Splatterhouse, God of War)
2) Use of drugs and alcohol (Grand Theft Auto, Bully, World of Warcraft)
3) Criminal behavior and disrespect for the authority and law (Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Splatterhouse)
4) Sexual exploitation and violence towards women (Grand Theft Auto, Bulletstorm, Manhunt 2, God of War)
5) Racial, sexual, and gender stereotypes (Grand Theft Auto, Bulletstorm, Manhunt 2,God of War,Splatterhouse, Bully)
6) Foul language, obscenities, and obscene gestures (Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt 2, Bulletstorm, God of War, Splatterhouse, Bully, World of Warcraft)
The method of repetition is considered to be an effective teaching method used to reinforce learning patterns. When adolescents experience high levels of exposure to these games it begins to reinforce behaviors they are watching and learning. Some expected outcomes of this exposure are:
1) Increased aggression (especially when the adolescent encounters conflict)
2) Prone to confrontation with peers and teachers
3) Decline in school achievement
4) Become numb or immune to the horror of violence – The military use games like Call of Duty Black Ops to desensitize the effects of killing.
5) View violence as a way to handle problems
6) Delayed social skills as a result of isolating and playing for hours daily as well as a false sense of making “friends” online.
1) Know the ESRB rating of the game (Entertainment Software Rating board)
2) Monitor all media consumption
3) Set limits – Moderation is key. Researchers have found that more than 30-60 minutes of intense video games can burn out the child’s Dopamine. Dopamine can also cause an addiction, hyperfocus or obsession on the game. Dopamine is to help with focus with homework, chores, and schoolwork.
4) Xbox360 has parental controls that allow how much time each day, limit specific game ratings, and more!
5) Communication – Set aside time with your children to discuss how they feel about what they are observing in these games.
If you or your adolescent is struggling with these behaviors or possible addictions, contact a counselor that understands gaming addiction.
NOTE: You can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information below intact.
Co-Written by Alicia Barilla & Edited by Adolescent Expert Jim West, MA, LMHC, NCC