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Are Computer Games Dangerous?

By: Charlotte Fereday - Updated: 1 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Are Computer Games Dangerous?

Computer games have long been accused of causing aggressive behaviour in kids but recent studies have downplayed the link. One study even concluded that violent computer games can help children ‘conquer fears and develop a sense of identity’, in much the same way scary fairytales did in ‘the olden days’.

Despite these conclusions there have been high profile cases where violent computer games have been cited as key influencers over violent acts by children, so how safe are they?

Not All Games Are Violent

One thing to bear in mind is that not all games are the same – only around two percent of games are rated as certificate 18 and many games are totally child friendly. There are games that encourage children to nurture their characters and explore a fantasy environment or build their own world and populate it with characters.

Violent computer games, and other games restricted for adult use, can be disturbing for children, especially as computer graphics get more and more realistic some games can feel very much like the player is moving through a real environment.

If your child has been exposed to a game that has disturbed him or her reassure them that the experience is not real and reinforce the difference between on and off screen violence. Much of the perceived danger with violent computer games comes from the blurring of these boundaries. Children who play games that involve shooting, fast cars and drugs can lose sight of the fact that real guns actually kill, and that in the real world you don’t get 3 lives.

How Do I Know If It’s Appropriate?

The UK has one of the most stringent game classification systems whereby all games are subjected to the same guidelines as cinema and DVD releases. Based on this system games that are U, PG or 12 rated should be appropriate for children of the right age.

Use the same judgement you would when choosing a film for your child to watch and don’t let yourself be pestered into buying more adult titles.

Computer Games Outside The Home

Obviously you can’t control what your child does every second of the day, especially older children but be aware of what your child does when he or she is at a friend’s house. Other parents might not be as concerned, or might not be aware of what the kids are playing.

87% of boys aged 11 to 16 questioned in the US said they had played adult computer games and most of these kids will grow up to be normally healthy adults with a balanced view of violence in the real world so occasional play is no real cause for alarm

Are There Other Dangers?

Computer games are hugely stimulating and can become addictive. Keep your child’s computer gaming under control by setting limits and making sure that it’s not their only extra curricular activity.

There is some evidence to show that computer games can encourage introspection because they are usually seen as a solitary activity. Many games can be played with two (or more) players which takes away the isolation and encourages interaction, albeit competitive interaction, between players.

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