Hopscotch, freeze tag, Red Rover, Pickle in the Middle, Red Light/Green Light – these are the games we used to play when we were kids. The worst that can happen could be that someone gets a scratch and needs a bandage. None of these games were age-rated, addictive, or involved graphic violence.
Today’s online games are very different. These games are designed to keep players hooked. Age ratings are often overlooked by players and parents. The game plan is shoot to kill; the more you kill, the more adrenaline is pumped through your body. The more you kill, the better your chances of winning and getting the highest score.
Lt. Dave Grossman, author of “Assassination Generation,” wrote, “Not all gamers become mass shooters, but all mass shooters were gamers.” The sad truth is that mass killers had excellent practice, sometimes for years, playing violent video games. Look for the correlation between the games played by mass killers and how and where (on their bodies) their victims were shot.
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In addition to the violence, players hear incredibly inappropriate language. They can also easily become addicted to games. Finally, playing them can affect their personality. It’s just a matter of time. The blame game could be directed against companies whose end game is profit. Blame could also be placed on parents who allow their children to gamble.
However, I am not here to blame. I want to educate. Sit, listen and watch an entire game with your child. Look at the age rating and compare it to your child’s age. Remember, maturity does not equal intelligence.
Note the difference in your child’s personality if you remove the game. Compare the aggression and argumentation a child exhibits before and after the game. Is he/she addicted?
The frontal lobe of children’s brains is still developing until their mid-twenties. It’s the part of the brain responsible for making decisions, often without thinking about long-term consequences. When a child plays a violent video game for hours on a daily basis, they become desensitized to the real violence and the harmful consequences of their actions.
What are the long term consequences? Is the cost of gambling worth the potential long-term therapy needed if gambling contributes to harming a child’s mental health? As an ambassador for Screen Strong Families, I encourage parents to come up with a game plan. Check websites, learn to be screen-free, and listen to podcasts. You are not alone in this perilous journey. Many parents can help their children avoid long-term mental health problems if they can finally say: Game over!
Ronna Glickman is an educator, speaker and consultant and founder of socialmediasafety.education.