Video Games: A Problem or a Blessing?
Revised July 2009 by Kathleen A. Olson, Extension Educator — Family Relations. Reviewed May 2016 by Lori Hendrickson, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency.
Do video games help children widen their interests and sharpen their intellectual skills as manufacturers claim? Or do they pose problems that inhibit learning and encourage bad attitudes and habits?
Video games can work for rather than against children. Parents can ensure that this happens by following these guidelines.
- Select games that promote problem solving. Think about your child’s needs and choose games that sharpen your child’s capacities. Look for games that are educational.
- Set limits on the amount of time your child plays alone. Suggested limits for video games and TV watching are no more than 1 hour for video and 1 to 2 hours of TV a day.
- Look for games that encourage cooperation. This may be difficult — the most common scenario is of one character performing an aggressive act against enemies. This usually involves killing the other players.
- Play video games with your child. Playing together helps monitor the content and determine which games are appropriate for your child.
- Monitor the amount of violence in the games children play. We know that television viewing of violence and aggression tends to encourage aggressive behavior. Recent research suggests a similar relationship with playing violent video games.
- Use the E.S.R.B. ratings listed on the box. E is appropriate for Everyone, age 6 and up. T means appropriate for Teens or youth, 12 and up. M ratings are for mature audiences and are not appropriate for any age youth. Parents need to use these ratings, because most stores don't enforce them.
- Pay attention to the attitudes expressed toward gender roles in video games. In many games, women are acted upon rather than initiators of action. Games that are geared more toward boys such as military adventures, sports, or monster chasing tend to have few positive female characters. Try to select games that portray both genders positively.
By following the above suggestions, you can maximize the positive effects of video games. For instance, they can increase motivation for some children. Also, computers offer quick and clear feedback about performance, with no judgment. Finally, many computer games promote a feeling of mastery for their participants.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2015, June). Video games and children: Playing with violence, No. 91.
Boyse, K. (2010, August ). Video games. University of Michigan Health System.
Fetter, M. (1984). Television viewing and school achievement. Journal of Communication, 34(2), 104-118.Van den beck, J. (2004). Television viewing, computer game playing, and internet use and self-reported time to bed and time out of bed in secondary-school children. SLEEP, 27(1), 101-104.
Video Games — University of Michigan Health System — Find out how video games affect kids, how the games rating system works, and more.
Video Games and Children: Playing with Violence — American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry — Get an overview of the pros and cons of children playing video games, and tips for parents to ensure video games are used appropriately.
Technology and Media — ParentFurther — Get tips and strategies for raising media-wise kids, including dealing with video game addiction, sexting, and more.
The Holidays Are Here. Which Apps Will You Share With the Children in Your Life — Harvard Family Research Project — Get ideas for free or low-cost apps to share with your children that are both fun and educational. (Note that while this is written as a "holiday" theme, the apps highlighted are not related to the holidays.) Features a related resource guide.
Teens and the Internet (193 K PDF) — Get tips for talking with your teen about internet use, and learn what you can do to keep your teen safe while online. Part of the Teen Talk : A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers series.
Monitoring Tips — Get a better understanding of what monitoring is, why it's important, and modeling strategies you can use to build parent-child relationships.