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Children And Video Games




By Margarita Nahapetyan

Since video games were first introduced in the 1972, they have become one of the most popular activities for people of all ages. Video games are played on several types of platforms: home consoles used with TV sets, computers, computers with access to the Internet, coin-operated arcade machines, and hand-held devices including game systems, cell phones and Palm Pilots.

Many children and teenagers spend large amounts of time playing them. Most of the games have become very sophisticated and realistic. And while some of them have educational content and promote learning, problem solving and help with the development of motor skills and coordination, others emphasize negative themes and promote killing, fighting, foul language, criminal behavior and violence in general.

There is growing research on the effects of video games on children. Numerous studies show that video games, especially ones with violent content, make teens more aggressive.

Children exposed to violence can become addicted to the horror of violence by imitating the violence they see, and showing more aggressive behavior themselves. Some children accept violence as a way to cope with their own problems. Studies have also shown that the more realistic is the exposure to violence, the more impressed children are. Also, children with emotional, behavioral and learning problems may be more influenced by violent images. Playing video games may increase aggressive behavior because violent acts are continually repeated throughout the video game. This method of repetition has long been considered an effective teaching method in reinforcing learning patterns.

Part of the increase in aggressive behavior is linked to the amount of time children are allowed to play video games. According to a U.S. national survey conducted by the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF), 92 per cent of children and teens ages 2 to 17 play video games, more than two-thirds of all children ages 2 to 18 live in a home with a video game system, a third of all children 2 to 18 have video game players in their bedrooms. By comparison, half have TV, 29 per cent have a VCR and 16 per cent have a computer in their room.

There is a big difference between passive TV or movie viewing and an interactive quality of video and computer games which allows players to experience amazing special effects, and become active participants in the game's script. Players enjoy being engaged in acts of violence and are then extremely excited to be able to move to the game's next level.

Children and teens who become overly involved and obsessed with video games, and, therefore, spend large amounts of time playing these games, can create problems, such as poor social skills, time absent from home, lower grades at school, less reading, less exercising and becoming overweight, aggressive thoughts, behaviors and so on.

One study suggested that children's physical health also may be affected by playing video games. Effects can range from triggering epileptic seizures to causing heart rate and blood pressure jumping. However, serious physical health problems are transient or limited to a small number of players. Research has also pointed to benefits associated with creative and pro-social uses of video games, as in physical rehabilitation and oncology. Proponents of video games suggest that games may be a friendly way of introducing children to computers, and may increase children's coordination and concentration on details.

Because of the popularity of video games, completely eliminating them from a child's life might be very hard. Therefore, parents should consider several important issues when providing guidance to their children and teens regarding the use of video games. They can help their kids enjoy these games and avoid problems by: checking the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings, to learn about the game's content; selecting appropriate games-both in content and level of development; setting clear rules about game content and playing time, both in and outside of your home; strongly warning children about potential serious dangers of Internet contacts and relationships while playing games online; talking with other parents about your family's video game rules; not installing video game equipment in your child's bedroom, and remembering that you are a role model for your children - including video games you play as an adult.

Parents are responsible for helping their children in choosing books to read, toys to play with, TV programs and movies to watch, that are appropriate for each particular child. Entertainment materials should be fun, engaging, exciting and educating. Parents should have a good knowledge and understanding of each child so that they can assist them in selecting appropriate learning materials. Parents should invest more of their time playing the games with their children, as well as talking with them about their impressions, thoughts, feelings and perceptions related to the playing game. They can also engage in a discussion of great values that may guide the child down a safe road and lead to the development of a moral character.



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