Are there games my kids should just never play?
An attendee at the first taping of “iQ SmartParent”
A few weeks ago I had the honor of interviewing some major gaming experts to get some guidance about what games I should let my kids play, and how often. WQED, a major creator of content for PBS stations all over the country, has launched a new program called “iQ SmartParent.” The first episode sets out to solve this dilemma.
Jesse Schell of Schell Games, and formerly of Disney Imagineering, explains what kids who never game may miss. Nikki Navta, creator of Zulama, opens up a new world of gaming in the classroom, and challenges our ideas that kids should “check their screens at the door” when they go to learn. Dr. Brian Primack, internationally acclaimed researcher on the effects of media on health, delineates the specific dangers of video games, and how to avoid them.
I learned some amazing facts about video gaming, and the good it can do our kids.
But the experts are clear about the dangers games can pose to our kids. Aggression, desensitization, isolation, fear. Certain games increase the rates of all of these in kids and adults. So what should we keep in mind?
- First person shooter games carry the most risk. These are games in which the player is creating at least some of the violence. Playing this role too often or for too long increases the chances that a person will react to conflict with aggression.
- Witnessing a lot of violence desensitizes us to pain and suffering.So even if our character in the game is trying to avoid the fires or bombs or mobs, just watching it happen on the screen (in games or movies or cartoons) changes the way we think about violence, makes it seem like “not a big deal.” Even when we see it in real life. And when the violence is accompanied by humor, that desensitization gets a lot worse.
- Playing too much screen can lead to isolation. If the game requires us to collaborate with other players (even ones we’ve never met) then this is much less of a problem.
- Stressful situations in the virtual world can increase anxiety in the real world. This is not true for everyone, so you have to know your child.
- How much we play matters. Playing games with violence more frequently makes these problems more likely. Just like eating an ice cream sundae once a week is a lot less dangerous than having three every day.
Luckily, games that meet these “negative criteria” are a small percentage of the games available!
It’s important to remember, that, like the food they eat, our kids will make more and more of their own decisions about their media consumption as they get older. So that means we have to talk to our kids about this now! Stay involved, play the games they play and talk about them. Give children and teens the knowledge and skills they need to make great media consumption decisions most of the time.
And please check out the show and the SmartParent community to see other ways and reasons to use video games for good! Airing on WQED Feb 7th at 8:00pm and Feb 10th at 3pm, and it will be available online a little later in the month. And check out Common Sense Media for great information about games, apps and just about any media your kids might encounter.
Are there games you will not allow your kids to play?