If you can't seem to tear your 10-year-old away from the Nintendo, take heart. According to researchers, a child's interest in video games surges around fourth grade, then tapers off.
While some experts have found proven benefits from video games ? improved hand-eye coordination, a mastery of technology, increased strategy skill ? many others wonder about the consequences of kids' preoccupation with electronic entertainment.
Primary among those concerns is the effect violent video games may have on children. There is still no conclusive research to determine how playing aggressive and violent video games influences a child's behavior. Evidence does indicates that immediately after playing a violent video game, a child will act with uncharacteristic, increased aggression. The effects, however, have not been found to be long-lasting.
One 1994 study linked boys' strong preference for violent games with low self-confidence. Educators point out that the standard game plot ? an autonomous individual working against an evil force ? does little to encourage cooperation or teamwork and instead fosters a sense of isolation and aloneness. And rarely do video games motivate players to depend on God for their strength and power.
While nonviolent, educational games are available, fewer than 2 percent of boys choose them. Boys prefer action-packed, violent or highly competitive sports games. (Girls rarely play video games, possibly because videogame companies don't target them.)
Until your child outgrows his interest in video games, there are ways you can keep his fascination in check:
? Limit playing time to about 20 minutes at a stretch, no more than an hour a day.
? Know and discuss the game's content. Help your child compare what happens in the game to what Scripture says about how we should live.
? Become familiar with and use ratings to screen games (see sidebar).
? Teach kids the difference between real-life violence and media violence. Help them understand the very real results of violent behavior.
? Always supervise your kids in an arcade or at home. Don't be afraid to set limits on what they play.
?Faith Tibbetts McDonald
Writer, educator, mother of three
The Ratings Game
All video games are required to carry a rating that allows parents to monitor the content, but it's not always clear what those ratings mean. The following ratings systems score games according to the amount of violence, nudity/ sex and bad language they contain:
? RSCA numerical ratings: 0 is the most child friendly and 4 the least.
? ESRB labels: Everyone, Early Childhood, Teen, Mature and Adults Only.)
For more information on video game ratings or to find age-appropriate games for your child, go to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board Web site at www.esrb.org.
Want your child to turn in his Game Boy for a book? Suggest Sigmund Brower's CyberQuest. (Tommy Nelson). The book's hero is caught inside a video-game where he must fight for his life at each peril-fraught level ? and he thinks it's real. The reader soon discovers that more than one man's life is at stake. This action-packed page-turner with a Christian message is a great read.
Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine.
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