The advent of video games, though traced back to 1958, commercially became available in 1972 when Pong hit the market. If you remember this game, it amounted to two players trying to hit an electronic ball back and forth to each other. We’ve come a long way from the drab, slow moving screens of the ’70s.
If you have a child at home between the ages of 8-18, I don’t have to tell you that playing video games is consuming more and more of their time. In the 1980s children played about 4 hours a week (this included time away from home at the arcades), in the 1990s this time had increased at home (arcade time had gone way down) for girls to about 4 ½ hours and for boys about 7 hours a week. In the 2000s girls were averaging about 5 hours a week, boys 13 hours a week. Can you imagine, as we start a new decade, what those hours per week will rise to?
Even though video game use is obviously increasing, it’s not that statistic that has me the most worried. Instead, it’s the tendency towards violence, sometimes extreme violence that is showing up in these games. I know there are benefits to video play; it’s challenging, sometimes educational, and always entertaining. The amount of violence being portrayed in this “sport”, however, is going to quickly outweigh those benefits. Some experts say that up to 89% of these games show some form of violence and over half of them show some character being seriously injured or killed off. More and more children often name these violent games as their favorites while parents usually can’t name their child’s favorite video game at all.
As parents we need to become more involved in the games our kids are playing. Studies show that playing videos with violent content can lead a child to more arguments with their teacher, more physical fights, and most of all the kid simply not being aware of their own behavioral conduct (more aggressive conduct I might add).
The experts are going to continue to argue for years to come over exactly what should be rated as violent content, how much game playing with violent content is too much, what age groups should be restricted from this aggressive content, and the list goes on and on. We as parents know our children. We need to know what games they want to purchase and play at home and more importantly what video games they are playing at a friend’s house. We need to do our research and act as a filter between our kids and this negative form of media before our children become desensitized to this violent behavior.
Our kids need us to be parents in this instance, parents with a firm grasp of what this form of entertainment can do for them, both positively and negatively. Parents with a firm hand when the negative pieces start to overshadow the positive ones.