There are a few questions I frequently get from city to city when doing parenting conferences. Here are a few of them.
“How old should my child be before I give them a cell phone?”
“How much time should my kids spend online?”
“What should I do when my child tells me no?”
“Does every teenage girl roll their eyes at their mother?”
“What is your opinion on violent video games?”
When parents ask about video games, especially certain games like Halo, Call of Duty, GTA (Grand Theft Auto) I do have an an opinion and a few thoughts about these games.
There has been a lot of research done on the topic of video games and their link yo criminal and aggressive behavior in children and teens. Before you read further let me say that the research may surprise you.
What Does The Research Say?
1. Video Game Play Is Pervasive With Our Kids
Playing video games has become a pervasive part of a child’s life in the U.S. “More than 90% of children play some kind of video game; when considering only adolescents ages 12–17, that figure rises to 97%.” (1)
2. Violent Games Are Not Connected To Criminal Behavior
“The truth is that decades of research have turned up no reliable causal link between playing violent video games and perpetrating actual violence.” (2) However much we as parents want it to be true, criminal behavior has yet to be connected to violent video games.
That’s not to say violent games have no effect. Games do have an effect on those who play them it just may not be the effect we think. In fact, in one such study conducted by Brian Coates at Washington State University, researchers found that preschoolers who watched the famously mild Mister Rogers' Neighborhood were three times more aggressive afterward.
3. Violent Games Have Been Linked To Aggressive Behavior
“The American Psychological Association (APA) argues in a research review that playing violent games is linked to aggression, but that there’s insufficient evidence to link the games to actual criminal violence.” (3)
In a published report from the APA task force reviewed more than 100 studies on violent video game use published between 2005 and 2013.
The conclusion reached by the APA was that playing violent video games “can increase aggressive behavior and thoughts, while lessening empathy and sensitivity toward aggression.”
4. The Amount of Time Playing Games Is Important
According to the research it’s not necessarily the type of games that are played but the amount of time playing the games.
“The amount of time spent playing video games has a much bigger impact on kids' behavior than the type of games they play. Children who play for longer than three hours per day are more likely to be hyperactive, get involved in fights and not be interested in school.” (4)
In fact, one study suggests that playing games for less than an hour per day may have positive benefits on behavior.
5. Video Games Don’t Make The Biggest Impact, Parents Do
Our kids lives are multifaceted filled with education, teachers, friends, sports, social activities and let’s not forget us, the parents! Each of these connection points have input into the lives of our children.
Playing video games is one facet of their lives. The research seems to bear out that playing violent video games is not the catalyst for criminal behavior. Video games, violent or not, should not have the biggest impact on our children, parents should.
What Can We Do?
1. We Can Limit Playing Time
As psychologist Douglas A. Gentile of Iowa State University puts it, “Whatever we practice repeatedly affects the brain. If we practice aggressive ways of thinking, feeling and reacting then we will get better at those.”
Scripture reminds us to, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLTse
Dwell on healthy things and play a video game for an hour instead of dwelling on a video game and thinking about healthy things for an hour.
2. We Can Encourage Healthy Hearts
Good thinking, healthy hearts and positive behavior are a product of something that we pursue. Our natural tendency is to drift away from good thinking, healthy hearts and positive behavior. It takes some effort to believe well and our beliefs fuel our behavior.
That’s why Proverbs 4:23 NLT reminds us to, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
The word guard means to keep or protect something valuable. We can encourage our kids and provide them with an environment that will allow them to keep and protect their hearts.
3. We Can Store Up Good Things
"A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart." Matthew 12:34 NLT
The word “treasury” is a place to keep things safe, like a storehouse. The word is used here metaphorically of the heart. So, the question is, “What do you keep putting into your storehouse and how often?”
My Opinion, For What It’s Worth
I think playing video games, violent or not, are ok in moderation. I played Halo and Call of Duty with my kids as well as Guitar Hero, Madden Football and others. There were also games that were banned from our house, Grand Theft Auto, was one of them.
The simple fact is, the Bible doesn’t address video games directly, probably because there was an electricity issue. Neither does it address cell phone usage, screen time and a host of other issues facing today's families.
Discretion, common sense, principles derived from scripture and the wisdom of others can all be helpful for each of us making our own decisions when it comes to playing video games.
Remember, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NLTse
1. What has been your experience with your children and violent video games?
2. What do you think about the research cited in today’s Blog.
3. Do you limit the amount of time your children play video games? If so, how long can they play each day or week?
(1) “Teens, Video Games and Civics,” Pew Research Center, Accessed Dec 10, 2015, http://www.pewinternet.org/2008/09/16/teens-video-games-and-civics/
(2) Greg Toppo, “How Violent Video Games Really Effect Kids,” Scientific American Mind, July/August, 2015, pg. 42
(3) Violent Video Games Are Linked To Aggression, Study Says,” Time Magazine Online, Accessed Dec 10, 2015, http://time.com/4000220/violent-video-games/
(4) “There's no link between violent video games and real-life aggression in kids, shows study,” Mirror, Accessed Dec 10, 2015, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/theres-no-link-between-violent-5440799
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