By Linda Pearson – Residential Clinician, Wood’s Homes | Beth McLeod – Practicum Student, Wood’s Homes
Many children and teens will find brand new video games wrapped and waiting for them under the tree this Christmas.
Play is an important part of a child’s learning. When your children are young, you are more likely to check out what they are playing. You have clear rules about how your child should play in real life, like no hitting or kicking.
In video games, teens often see some type of violence and as technology improves, the blood and violence get more realistic. Did you know that your child’s brain responds the same way to cartoon violence as it does to real life violence? This means that the wrong video games can cause anxiety, fear, aggressive behaviours, and impact social skill development.
Psychologists have learned that children and adolescents who play violent video games find it hard to see another person’s point of view. For example, if a child says something mean, they may not understand why their peer got upset. Teenagers who play violent games may think, act, and feel in aggressive ways. They may solve problems by hitting or by thinking about hurting others.
So, how do you help your children find games that are age-appropriate? The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) ratings are a good place to start. While you know that M (Mature) and AO (Adults Only) games are off limits for your teen, it can be harder to decide whether a T (Teen) or E (Everyone) game is a good fit.
Here are 5 tips to help you decide what video games are a good fit for your family:
- Check the rating – Use the ESRB rating guide to figure out what content might be in the game your child is playing.
- Double-check the rating – Read game reviews, ask friends, and play the game yourself.
- Learn about the games your teen likes – Monitor your teen’s game play, especially if the game is online. Ask about the characters, the goal of the game, and the features that they find interesting. Find out the additional features – Can you go online? Chat with others? Does it ask for personal information? Are there parental controls?
- Talk and set limits – Talk to your teen about what they see in games or in the chat or discussion in games. Discuss what your child can do if they see something in a game that makes them uncomfortable. Set limits for how long they can play and what they can do in their games.
- Monitor your child’s game use – Avoid installing video game equipment in your child’s room or in areas of the house that are not visible to all family members. Keep track of how long your child is playing video games or using media so it falls within the limits. Talk with your child if you notice something in a game they may not be able to handle themselves.
American Psychological Association(APA). (2013). Psychologists study media violence for harmful effects. Science in Action. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/action/resources/research-in-action/protect.aspx
ESRB. (n.d.) ESRB Ratings. Retrieved from http://www.esrb.org/ratings/
ESRB. (2005). ESRB concludes investigation into Grand Theft Auto San Andreas: Revokes M(Mature) rating. Retrieved from http://www.esrb.org/about/news/7202005.aspx
Norcia, A. (2014). The Impact of Video Games. Retrieved from http://www.pamf.org/parenting-teens/general/media-web/videogames.html
Olson, C. K., Kutner, L. A., Baer, L., Beresin, E.V., Warner, D. E., & Nicholi, A. M. (2009). M-rated video games and aggressive or problem behavior among young adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 13(4), 188-198. Doi:10.1080/10888690903288748
Rundle, M. (2015). Death and violence ‘too intense’ in VR, developers admit. Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-10/28/virtual-reality-death-violence
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!
Wood’s Homes is a nationally accredited mental health centre – proudly helping communities for over 100 years. Learn more at woodshomes.ca.