There was an editorial published by a psychiatrist in the Boston Globe today about his experience with video games. He concurred with the Supreme Court. He goes on to talk about the ways in which violent video games have inspired some of his patients to make connection via on-line and gaming friends that they did not have access to in the bricks and mortar world. He believes that we need to incorporate more video games into education not eliminate access.

Anecdotal evidence, evidence that is based on one or two or even a dozen individual stories, is very weak science. Anecdotal evidence is typically only accepted as a sound scientific argument when we do not have larger studies that account for the many many other factors influencing the outcome. Here is an example of anecdotal evidence that many of us can understand as weak: My grandparents both lived to nearly 80 even though both were regular smokers. Would that compel you to believe that cigarettes do not change the risk for lung cancer and emphysema? I hope not.

There is a ton of research on violent video games and children. The compelling research is based on sound developmental and cognitive psychology. It recognizes the complex nature of risk for violent behavior and the fact that excessive violent behavior is, thankfully, rare. Good science attempts to recognize inherent limitations and to support individuals in making informed judgements. Eliminating violent video games absolutely reduces the risk that a child or teen will engage in violent behavior, violent fantasies, and pro-violent attitudes. Will it eliminate the risk? No. Will it cause violent behavior in every case? No. Exposure to violence increases the risk. More time devoted to it = more risk and less negative emotional reactions to it. Things we are exposed to are more attractive than if we had never been exposed to them. There are some things that we are not meant to feel okay with or attracted to because they areĀ  morally wrong and/or not adaptive such as suicide and homicide.

Dr. Craig A. Anderson has devoted his career to studying video games and kids. His recommendations to parents include a great deal of information on what to buy and how to choose games. He fits in very well with the ACT_Raising Safe Kids Program because his advice is respectful of parents as experts on their children. He has clear recommendations and has made his research and other accessible. http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/~caa/

It is worth your time to be familiar with some of the science. You will be met with challenges. Today, you may have control over the access that your child has to video games but that is not the end. You need to be able to make your thinking clear to your neighbors and to your family. You will need to be able to be clear with your child and to help your child make choices as she gets older and has gets access to these games outside your home.

Teach for Life!

Kelly