4 Tips For Dealing With Video Game Violence For Parents



Whenever there is an upsurge in moral panic around violence in the media, the focus becomes more polarizing than pragmatic.  Despite the overwhelming research (such as these articles) that shows weak if any links between video games and violence, media pundits whip up mental health providers and the parents they work with into a frenzy.  Feelings such as a passionate urge to protect children and adolescents are often to intense to be suspended to look at data.  In the midst of all this, moderate and practical ways to address the graphic content of some video games are overlooked in favor of heated philosophical debates.  So for those of you who are parents and/or work with them, here are a few tips and links on how to handle violence in video games:

1. Set console parental controls.  You can set your game consoles to only play games of a certain rating.  If you haven’t done so and are complaining about violence in video games, take some action here.  Here are the how-tos:

XBox Parental Controls

Playstation Parental Controls (Video from CNET

Wii Parental Controls

These are password-protected, and will allow you to set the ratings limits, which brings us to:

2. Know your ratings.  Although I have mixed feelings about the Entertainment Software Rating Board, it’s what we’ve got.  But the ESRB is only as useful if you familiarize yourself with it.  This means not only looking at what each rating means, but using the other resources they have, including mobile tools, setting controls, family discussion guides and other tips for safety.  The message here is that there is more to understanding and moderating access to your child’s gameplay than a rating system, including discussion of in-game content.

3. Make use of graphical content filters.  Many parents, educators and therapists don’t know that a growing number of games have options that can be set to filter out violent graphics, profanity, and alter the experience of game content to a more family-friendly level.  If your child wants a video game, have searching online to see if the game has a GCF be part of the process.  Not only will you be teaching them about consumer choice, but digital literacy as well.  Here are some popular games that have GCFs:

Call of Duty Black Ops 2

Gears of War 3

World of Warcraft

4. MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Parenting has no “settings.”  Parents and educators often want some expert to rely on–don’t try to “park it” that way.  Most games can be rented before you buy them from services like GameFly so you can test drive them.  That’s right, I’m suggesting you play the games yourself so you can make a personally informed decision.  At the very least you should be watching your child play them some of the time, not to be nosy, but because part of your role as a parent is to take an interest in their world.  If you can spend 2 hours going to their Little League game, you can spend an hour watching (if not playing) Borderlands 2.

If you’re an educator or therapist, you’re not off the hook either.  🙂 If you are going to offer opinions on video games and their content, make sure you are playing them.  Chances are you don’t say things like “reading Dickens is dangerous for young minds” if you have never read any of his work.  If you did, you’d probably be out at a book burning rather than reading this blog.  By the same token, don’t presume to opine about video games if you have done nothing to educate yourselves about them.  And please note that asking children about them is a place to start, but by no means sufficient for educating yourself.  If you are a play therapist, please start including 21st century play materials like video games in your repertoire.  And be sure to provide parents with the resources they need to help them make sense of this stuff, such as the resources this post gives you.

Look anyone can have an opinion on video games and violence, but we need practical processes to help people be informed consumers.  This is one parenting issue that has practical, doable options, and is rated “O” for “Ongoing…”

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  1. Bowling for Columbine made the point that the same video games are played by kids around the world, and it is the U.S. that has such high rates of violence. Moore also ruled out guns to some extent, as Canada has many guns yet low rates of violence. His point was that there is so much violence here because our government models violence by the amount of wars we’re in. But, the biggest issue when if comes to violence in the U.S. is how we accept without question putting our infants in daycare at 3 months of age. Anyone who has studied attachment should understand what potentially devastating effects thus has on a developing infant to be separated from its caregivers when the attachment system in the brain is being developed. We are the only developed country that does not guarantee that a parent will have their job after an extended parental leave from work (and I don’t mean 1 month paid time off with 2 months unpaid). Caretakers in Europe get a year off while receiving two-thirds of their salary (for each child I believe) and are guaranteed their jobs when they return. To me relegating the importance of children behind the importance of productivity and corporate profits, and neglecting the importance of attachment(see research on Rhesus monkeys) is the major reason behind the level of violence here. Not to get political, but in 2001 George W. Bush had an important closed door meeting about Education with Business Leaders. What business do “Business Leaders” have with Education? Well, their recommendations: (1) All day Kindergarten, and (2) Mandatory Preschool. Why? So they can guarantee parents working MORE and spending LESS time with their children. Yet, we are blind to this and it is NEVER brought up in any debate about the extreme levels of violence here.

  2. Great post! I think that regardless of where the excessive violence is coming from in the US, as parents we have the right to control and educate our children. Although we should be aware and accept that not all parenting methods are the same and that none of them is just simply wrong but different. The main point is to know your kid and know how they understand things, from there you can set their own and unique boundaries, each kid is different!

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