It’s very challenging to shelter children from the violence and conflict present in our country and the world today. Our children overhear the news from the people and media around them. While we try our best to buffer our children from media negativity and violence, we can focus on an area of exposure over which we have control: the exposure to violent video games.
Research shows that children are deeply impacted when exposed to excessive video game playing and violence. Playing violent video games can increase aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in children. Violent video games can also cause children to become immune or numb to violence and imitate the violent behaviors they see.
Children then develop poor social skills and their ability to feel and practice empathy decreases. When children spend excessive amounts of time playing violent video games, they can experience lower grades, they read less, they spend less time socializing with friends and family, developing hobbies and exercising, and they experience a poor quality of sleep. The negative emotional, mental, and physical health impacts of violent video game exposure on children are clear.
What can parents do to protect their children from violent video games?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents coplay video games with their children to view the content and understand what the games entail. Children under the age of 6 need to be protected from any exposure to virtual violence because young children cannot distinguish fantasy from reality. The AAP also specifies that first person shooter games are not appropriate for children of any age. For children ages 6 and older, set screen time limits that fit your family and your child’s schedule by reflecting on these questions:
Is your child sleeping enough? Do they have a balanced diet? Do they exercise every day? Do they have quality time with family? Do they keep in touch with their friends? Are they invested in school and keeping up with their homework? Do they participate in hobbies and extracurricular activities? Prioritize these needs first, then fit in their video game time around these needs. Expect pushback when you set boundaries to reduce your child’s video game time or decide to remove your child’s access to violent video games. Children want and need boundaries to feel safe, even though they will probably protest.
Limiting your child’s video game playing may be going against societal norms, but the research is clear. Children are healthier and happier when their parents protect them from exposure to violent video games.