Video Games: A Problem or a Blessing?
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 need to make sure this happens by following guidelines. For instance:
- Select games that promote problem solving. Think about your child’s needs and choose games that sharpen your child’s capacities. Many games can easily be played alone and discourage social interactions.
- Set limits on the amount of time your child plays alone. Suggested limits for video games and TV watching are 1 hour for video and 1 to 2 hours of TV a day.
- Look for games that stress 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 get rented.
- 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 sexes 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.
Sarah Staude, StaudeS@missouri.edu
Regional Specialist, 4-H Youth
Cass County, Missouri
University of Missouri Extension