Researchers are divided about the effects of violent video games on children. One view holds that a connection exists between children’s exposure to violence in the media and aggressive, violent behavior in youths. The advocates of this view believe that although violent scenes are already plentiful in the television shows and movies that children see, video games are more influential because of their interactive nature, which serves as a virtual training ground for actual violence.

In recent years, new research has challenged this view. These researchers argue that many of the measures used to assess aggressive behavior after children watch violent video games don’t actually correlate with violence in real life. In fact, statistics inform us that violent crimes among young people have decreased since 1996, while video game sales have skyrocketed.

Most important, researchers on both sides of the dispute agree on the influence of parents. Both sides of the debate agree that parents can be proactive and take steps to limit any potential negative impact of children playing video games.

The following are a few strategies proposed by the experts studying this important issue.

  • Check the ESRB rating of video games to gain a better understanding of the content that can be expected in a particular video game. The ESRB, or Entertainment Software Rating Board, describes and rates the content of video games.
  • Play the video games with your children. Doing this will give you a better understanding of what is going on in the game, and as you play, you can see how your child reacts to the game.
  • Place video games and computers in common areas of the house rather than in a child’s bedroom. Common areas encourage common knowledge and dialogue.
  • Set time limits on screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than two hours of total screen time per day, which includes television, computers, and video games.
  • Encourage participation in extracurricular activities that involve interacting with peers in person rather than only online. Sports, chess club, dance, or organized play dates all require learning how to deal with the complexities of relationships in real life.

Video games can be fun and enjoyable, and parents can help by staying connected, being involved, setting limits, and providing guidance when necessary.