Between what they see on TV, online and in video games, your kids can be bombarded with violent images. If you don’t address it, kids can become numb to real violence over time.
Violent video games can especially lead to aggressive behavior and cause children to be less sensitive to other people’s pain and suffering. A study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that just 20 minutes of playing a violent video game can cause people to be less affected by real violence.
Children younger than 8 are even more prone to desensitization, since the line between reality and fiction is still blurry in their developing brains, says Melissa Wellner, MD, child psychiatrist with AAMG Mental Health Specialists. “Little ones who play violent video games might see a news report about a real bombing. To them, it looks like a game where you get points to kill,” she says. “Their emotional reaction to real violence is distorted.”
As a parent, you should set clear limits for video game content and the amount of time spent playing. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips to steer your kids toward age-appropriate video games:
- Get to know a video game’s content before giving the OK to play.
- Keep gaming in a common family area for easy supervision.
- Limit video game time to an hour a day, and encourage other activities like exercise, playing outside and reading.
- Turn gaming time into family time by choosing group sports or music activity video games that bring everyone together.
It’s also helpful to learn and follow the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) video game ratings. You can find them on game packaging or onscreen before downloading a game.