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Today video games are actively sought after by children in our society. In a recent research, 97% of children ages 12 to 17 engaged in some type of video game and of these children two-third of them played games that contained some type of violence. In another investigation it was reported that more than half of all the video games that the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates contain violence, with more than 90% of those games being appropriate for only children 10 years of age and older. With this alarmingly high statistics, video games have raised some concern (Lenhart et al., 2008).
Children are very vulnerable to influences that they see on television and video games. Researchers that study classical learning suggests that children will imitate what they see on television even more so than what they witness in person, especially if they think what they see is real, identify with the character, find the character attractive, or if the child views without parental supervision (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2009). Both the American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) and the American Academy of Child & Adolescents Psychiatry(AACAP) agree that children learn by observing, mimicking, and adopting behaviors of their own. Although the AAP points out that there are many influences on a child's behavior, it does acknowledge that video games are a major influence due to the fact that they are highly interactive and encourage role play. It also fears that children may use video games as a way to virtually rehearse actual violence ("Violent video games" 2010). For example, in "first person shooter" video games the player views the game as an interactive 3-dimensional environment that simulates reality. With advances in technology today, children can play these games with others through the internet allowing them to virtually kill one another with all the blood, violence and gore included (Porter & Starcevic, 2007). Repeated exposure to these types of behaviors and violence in video games over time may desensitize children by numbing them emotionally, cause nightmares, and insomnia, decrease in academic performance and/or lead to aggressive behaviors and bullying ("Violent video games" 2010).
. Another negative impact that researchers have pointed out is that children are rewarded for their violent acts while playing video games. When the player complete a violent task correctly and timely they are rewarded by points and are promoted to the game's next level and/or status. Being rewarded for consistently acting out acts of violence throughout the game may also increase aggressive behavior.
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As a result of the concern over video game violence and it's affects, the ESRB was created. The purpose of this group is to inform the general public about the content of the games and their age appropriateness by rating them according to their content of violence, sex, controversial language, and substance abuse (Norcia, 2013).
Parents may be able to limit some of the potential negative impacts that violent video games can have on their children by following these suggestions, especially if they are concerned that their children may be vulnerable to the effects of violent content.
•"Check the ESRB rating to better understand what type of content a video game has."
•"Play video games with children to better understand the content, and how children react."
•"Place video consoles and computers in common areas of the home, rather than in children’s bedrooms."
•"Set limits on the amount of time youths can play these games. The AAP recommends two hours or less of total screen time per day, including television, computers, and video games."
•"Encourage participation in sports or school activities in which youths can interact with peers in person rather than online. Video games share much in common with other pursuits that are enjoyable and rewarding, but may become hazardous in certain contexts. Parents can best protect their children by remaining engaged with them and providing limits and guidance as necessary (Norcia, 2013)."
Research data shows children who see more violence in the video games that they interact with have a greater acceptance of, and tolerance for, violent and aggressive behavior. While the individual effects that violent video games can have on a particular child may vary, there is very little doubt that violent games influences all children to some extent (Nowak, Krcmar, & Farrar, 2008).
Lenhart, A., Kahne, J., Middaugh, E., Macgill, A., Evans, C., & Vitak, J. (2008). Teen, Video Games and Civics. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2008/Teens-Video-Games-and-Civics.aspx
Norcia, A. (2013). Parents & Teachers: The Impact of Video Games. Impact of Video Games on Adolescents. Retrieved from http://www.pamf.org/parenting-teens/general/media- web/videogames.html
Nowak, K. L., Krcmar, M., & Farrar, K. M. (2008). The Causes and Consequences of Presence: Considering the Influence of Violent Video Games on Presence and Aggression. Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 17(3), 256-268.
Papalia, D. E., Olds, S. W., & Feldman, R. D. (2009). Human Development. (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Porter, G., & Starcevic, V. (2007). Are violent video games harmful?. Australasian Psychiatry, 15(5), 422-426. doi:10.1080/10398560701463343
Violent video games and young people. (2010). Harvard Mental Health Letter, 27(4), 1-3.