As video games have evolved over time they have transformed from non-violent rudimentary simulations aimed mainly towards children to significantly more lifelike presentations aimed mainly at the largest market, being adults.
As a result of the market shift, the content of the games has become much more adult in its nature, both through images, content and language used. Gone are the days when combined semi-circles and squares of different colours were chasing a yellow circle who was trying to eat as many dots as possible.
Gentile & Anderson (2003) state that playing video games may increase aggressive behaviour 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.
Research has also found that, controlling for prior aggression, children who played more violent video games during the beginning of the school year showed more aggression than other children later in the school year. (Pediatrics, Nov. 2008)
Parents understanding and utilising the ratings of video games has become much more important to protect children from exposure to inappropriate content for their age group, just as they do for films. Additionally, parents should take this rating as a guide, not a steadfast rule, as the content for individual age groups may not be right for your child.
Safe Gaming – 5 Tips
- Many games may contain themes, language and images that are unsuitable for your child and vary in their levels of violent or sexual content. You can check the age guidelines and classification of individual games through information available on its website or product box or at the Australian Classification Board.
- Useful information about games ratings can also be obtained from the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) and the US Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
- Review sites can also be a good source of information about age appropriate content – Australian Council on Children and the Media, Kiwi Families (NZ), Common Sense Media (US), Parents’ Choice (US) and Ask About Games (UK).
- See our Parental controls, Movies and games and Games, apps and social networking pages for more information.
- Talk regularly with your child about their gaming interests and who they play with online. Help them understand the risks of excessive gaming. Set limits on how often and how long your child is allowed to play video games.
- Do not install video game equipment in your child’s bedroom. Play alongside your child to get a better sense of how they are handling their personal information and who they are communicating with.
- Use available parental controls and establish rules well in advance about gaming use, including time limits, personal information they should not share and designate where they can play. Get your child to use a screen name that doesn’t reveal their real name and locate the computer or games console in an open area of your home (or if they are playing on their hand held device get them to do it in the family room).
- Agree on strategies for them to switch off, like a timer that signals that game time is nearly over, and the consequences for not switching off.
- Install current security software on all devices to protect against viruses, malware and other online threats, and teach your kids not to click on links provided by strangers, like cheat programs to help with game play.
- Activate parental controls and settings to restrict access to certain sites and content and to help prevent any excessive spending on in-game and in-app purchases.
- Monitor the time your child spends online and keep a lookout for any changes in your child’s activity, school or social behaviours.
- Encourage your child to tell you if they are being cyberbullied or if another user is making them uncomfortable – they can ‘block’ players or report any threatening or suspicious behaviour to the game’s administrators. If you suspect your child is being groomed online by a stranger, you can report this to the Australian Federal Police on the Child exploitation form.
- Provide your child with strategies to deal with negative online experiences. Our Young & eSafe site is a good starting point as it helps empower young people to take control of their online experiences. It includes real-life stories from young people and expert advice and tips on how to make a positive impact in their online world.
- Share with other parents information about certain games or ideas for helping each other in parenting.