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Negative Effect of Video Games on Children
Violence. Sexual themes. Parents have heard it all when it comes to their kids and the video games they play; proponents cry that the industry are corrupting the youth by exposing them to violence and sex, while diminishing their feelings towards society and each other as a whole. Opponents cry out that video games are just that - games that are to pass the time and can have positive effects on kids and adults.
So what does a parent do to try and combat the view of video games and kids? What exactly are the negative effects and what can a parent do in order to ensure their kid doesn't turn into a psycho serial killer based on them playing World of Warcraft?
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What are the Negative Effects?
There are a variety of negative effects that video games have on children. The most concerning is that aggressive behavior seems to increase with the usage and overall hours of playing violent video games. On average, most male players play about 13 hours of video games a week, while female players played about 5 hours a week. It shouldn't be a surprise than that most video games are aimed at the young adolescent male crowd and that this is the group in which the more aggressive behaviors occur. With the ever increasing abilities of game designers, video games are more realistic than they had been when first introduced.
While the exposure to violence and some sexual content is the most concerning, there are other negative effects. As mentioned above, both genders play for an extended period of time, with boys playing more throughout the week than girls. This can have a negative effect on their schooling and learning process. This is not to say that video games can't be educational; there are many positives to playing video games, however if a child is spending more time playing video games, that means there is less time for them to be doing their homework or working on school work.
There is also the decrease in interacting with the family and other friends who may not play the same games. With the popularity of online gaming, there is the increase that children will spend more time with their 'online' friends than they do with their real life friends. This is the same argument that is the forefront of social networking.
Another concern is the physical effects of video games. The introduction of Nintendo's Wii has made it so that a player isn't directly tied to the couch, but most video games (especially for the more hard core players) still require the player to be stationary while holding the controller. This brings about the concerns for the prospect of obesity, as well as tendinitis and carpel tunnel in the hands and wrists. Children will spend more time inside than outside, sitting in a solitary position for several hours.
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What's a parent to do to combat the negatives of gaming for children?
The above may seem as though the only recourse is for parents to ban all video games from their child's lives, ensuring that they only spend time with other children who also don't play video games. As much as the above reflects the ongoing issue, there are things parents can do to make sure that their child can still play their favorite game without having to sneak around to do it.
- Set time limits. The most obvious thing here is to set limits on when a child can play a video game. Just like what parents did with TV and playing with friends, parents need to set rules when it comes to playing video games. During the school semesters, homework and studying need to be finished and completed before playing. Period. How you handle the weekends and summers are different, but with the same limits. Kids like to be individuals, but they also like having rules that don't change everyday.
- Know the game. Glaringly, most parents don't bother to research the video game their child is playing until it's too late. Before, when it had been a daring and exciting experience to play a video game the older siblings could only play, parents are increasingly buying mature video game titles for children who aren't of age to be playing them. The simple truth of the matter - research the game your kid wants to play. Google is your friend and will find all the reviews and ratings you need.
- Don't let your child watch you play. If you don't want your five year old to play Grand Theft Auto 4, then it's probably a good idea not to play it while they watch. It's difficult to resist getting to the next level, but if you can hold off until they go to bed, your life is better for it.
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The Best Weapon
Ultimately, the best weapon to protect children against the negative effects of video games is you, the parent. Setting limits on how much they play or when they play means they aren't sitting and shooting for nine hours a day. And knowing what they're playing helps too. The best thing is to get a point of view of the game itself, instead of listening to the critics. Talking to other parents is helpful, as is your child knowing what you expect from them and the rules you put in place.