A mom says her kid gets mean when he can’t play his DS. But is it really the game that’s to blame? Photo by Flickr user GoonSquadSarah.
The press is rife with the message that video games make kids and teens more aggressive. Even though there’s no proof that gaming causes behavioral changes, and there is evidence that video games don’t harm, or even benefit, their players, this idea lingers. Empowering Parents recently conducted a poll, asking parents whether games “affect their child’s behavior.” Sixty-two percent said yes.
The poll quoted one parent, who said:
“My son, who is 9, doesn’t want to stop playing his DS … and when I finally manage to get it out of his hands, he gets mouthy, rude and acts more aggressively towards his brother and little sister. I’m actually considering banning video games from our house.”
I know it’s really challenging when your child is fixated on a particular toy, to the exclusion of family, books, sleep, homework — whatever. You want to do what’s right for them and limit their use of that toy, but kids can be so stubborn. Sometimes asking or setting down limits doesn’t work, and you have to intervene.
But it sounds to me like the problem here isn’t the game, or even the game system. Imagine if someone took your phone away while you were using it, or took a book out of your hands while you were reading it. You might get mouthy and rude, too — you might even get unruly with an innocent bystander, if you felt like the person who took the item out of your hands couldn’t be reasoned with (or yelled at). People who’ve just had their power taken away act out in a variety of ways, including the one this woman is describing in her son.
Kids don’t often feel like they hold much power, and when you do things that take power away from them, they frequently do things to reclaim that feeling of control. It might make more sense to collaborate with your son to develop some reasonable limits on using the DS — ones that he agrees to. Here are some excellent tips on how to approach it. Of course, “no DS at all” can be a consequence if he doesn’t collaborate with you. But don’t blame the game system for his behavior.
Unfortunately, Empowering Parents isn’t revealing many of the details of this poll. They aren’t sharing what questions they asked, or providing much description of the answers. They also made a very strange leap from “62% of respondents said that playing video games affects their child’s behavior” to “numerous studies suggest that virtual violence in these games may make kids more aggressive in real life.” (There’s a big difference between “affects behavior” and “makes kids violent,” folks.) Nevermind that their example quote mentions the DS — whose games feature cartoon violence at best.
Parents, have you noticed whether gaming affects your kid’s behavior in any way? If there’s a change, is it a good or a bad one? How long does it last? What have you done, if anything, to set limits on your kid’s video-game time or game choices? If you’ve done that, has it changed anything?