Kids and Violence in Media
How do the images our children see on TV, and in movies and video games affect them – and how can parents dial down the exposure?
Vetting Video Games
How can you indulge your gamer without exposing him to life-like violence?
Follow the ratings. It seems like a no-brainer, yet many parents ignore them. In fact, one study found that 65% of kids age 7-12 have played Grand Theft Auto. Games rated M are meant for kids 17 and up. Your mature kid might be able to handle them a little earlier, or you might find the content in some games less objectionable, but the ratings should be your starting point, says Olson. Check for ratings and descriptions of games at esrb.org.
Rent before you buy. Before you plunk down the cash, Olson suggests taking a game for a test drive to see if the content is consistent with your family’s values. Play with your kid so you know exactly what’s there.
Look for violence alternatives. There are lots of video games out there that emphasize sports or civilization building, which can actually help kids become good digital citizens, says Dr. O’Keeffe.
Keep video games out of the bedroom. Instead, use them in the family or living room so you know how much your child’s really playing. Also, Olson suggests having kids surrender the handhelds at bedtime.
Enforce balance. Many kids have a hard time tearing themselves away from the console, so Olson says it’s up to the parents to make sure kids spend their time in a variety of ways.
Watch for warning signs. If you notice your child only likes to play video games alone, or only goes for violent games, those are red flags, says Olson. Also, a period of increased or obsessive playing could indicate a need to escape from a rough patch, so be sure to stay plugged in about what’s going on in your kid’s offline world, and loop in your doctor if necessary.