Recently there was a diabolical attack on a twelve year old girl in Wisconsin. Two girls lured their “friend” into the woods and then stabbed her nineteen times supposedly to impress a nightmarish, fictional online character known as Slender Man. Slender Man can be found on the horror story site, www.creepypasta.com.
Since this tragedy the website has taken a step to caution users, by posting this: “This website contains fictional content that may be too scary for younger readers. Please verify that you are either at least 18 years of age or have parental permission before proceeding.” Kids of course can enter any date to access the site easily. That’s why it’s so important for parents to know and see what websites their kids are visiting.
As a parent and internet safety advocate I am concerned about the impact that violent content and violent video games is having on kids, especially violent behavior.
Ninety Percent of Kids Play Video Games
Ninety percent of kids play video games. Many are harmless, fun and challenging such as Angry Birds or Marvel Ultimate Alliance. I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the killing games with sound and visual affects that would make anyone with the strongest stomach cringe and get goose bumps. Call of Duty, Manhunt and Postal are a few of these games. Postal attempts to verify the age of the user, but it’s easy to lie.
Kids by the age of seven are supposed to be able to understand the difference between what’s real and what’s not real and put each in different buckets in their heads. But what happens when kids are constantly exposed to violence for hours and hours. Does that change the equation? A recent study by Iowa State University says that “children who repeatedly play violent video games are learning thought patterns that will stick with them and influence behaviors as they grow older.” This makes sense. What kids see is a powerful teacher. In the same way that kids who are abused and have seen abuse are more likely to be abusers them selves. Violence breeds violence.
Children under the age of seven often don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality, so that imagined monster under the bed is very frightening. They can’t differentiate video game reality either and may see the recurring violence they are acting out in the game as normal behavior.
Numerous studies find a link between video games with violent content and aggression in kids. This occurs partly because these games are interactive, not passive, and violent acts are repeated over and over. Repetition has always been a key factor in learning, so it makes sense that violent behavior is being learned by these games. The amount of time that kids are allowed to play these games is another factor that may lead to more aggressive behavior. Some kids are playing these games for hours and hours, unsupervised. Even little kids are playing the most violent games that are rated for mature audiences.
What Can Parents Do?
- Know the rating of the video games your child plays. For ratings check out CommonSenseMedia.org (A great resource for websites too!) and esrb.org
- Keep video game consoles in the family room where parents can supervise activity and out of the bedroom.
- Go over limits, rules and expectations about video game play and how long they can play.
- Monitor your child’s video game activity and also other media including T.V., movies and their online world. Many games are available online.
- Talk to your child about the video games they are playing and the difference between fantasy and reality. Talk to them about appropriate behavior.
- Don’t be afraid to say NO to a game. Don’t fall for the “all my friends are allowed to play…” You’re the parent! You make the rules.
Here are some of the most violent games for parents to be aware of:
Call of Duty
Left 4 Dead 2
Grand Theft Auto
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
Murdered Soul Suspect
The Witch and The Hundred Knight
Infamous Second Son
Mighty Quest for Epic Loot
Killzone – Shadow Fall