There are no convincing scientific correlations between violent behavior and violent video game play. Yet, parent groups across the nation continue to vigorously fight this battle. They lobby lawmakers, hold rallies, and press for strict limitations on violent games. They have had some recent success.
The state of California passed a law making it illegal to sell violent video games to anyone under 18. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear this case later this year. The lobbying arm of the video game industry, the Entertainment Software Association, spends millions a year fighting these regulatory efforts. Parents want to protect their kids, and video game companies want to protect their profits. But, is either of these really in jeopardy?
In the first place, video games cost a lot of money. I don’t know too many 12-year olds who have $50 and transportation to the mall to buy games. While I cannot fault parents for wanting to protect their kids, I think these laws are a lot of effort focused in a direction that will provide little bang for the concerned-parent’s buck. Further, there are no studies that suggest such bans will decrease the playing of violent video games. Banning the sale of these games to minors may actually increase play time!
But the most pressing issue is obscured: video game play comprises an ever-increasing slice of recreational time for our kids. Passing laws about who gets to purchase these games will do nothing to address excessive screen time, sedentary lifestyles, and screen-time-induced solitude and separation.
It is easy to have one’s attention drawn to sensational and outlandish stories. But the reality is that the average American child spends close to five hours a day in front of a screen. Excessive screen time correlates with obesity, attention issues, sleep troubles, poor performance in school, and social issues. These are the real problems and they are only getting worse.
Rather than spend our time trying to restrict who gets to buy certain games, we should find a way to empower parents to restrict screen time in their homes. The government could, for example, provide tax credits or funding so that even low income parents could access parental control devices. Parents need to be educated in how to help their children balance their lives and use the offerings of the cyber world to enhance their potential, not destroy it.
- The next blog will focus on strategies for balancing real life and online realities.
- Do you know anyone who suffers from Internet addiction?
- Where do you stand in this debate?