Experts say that video games that are violent and dangerous in nature can cause harm to children.
These video games that are full of violent and dangerous contents are available online, and is popular among young people, can affect the behaviour of children, due to over exposure. It may cause children to become aggressive, see violence as normal, or, in some cases, even lead to physical harm.
Parents became more alarmed and concerned about the online games and video games after recent rumours of the “Blue Whale Game”, in which an online social media group allegedly dared young people to commit a series of 50 increasingly daring challenges, before being told to commit suicide.
Though Dubai police have confirmed that no cases of this game is reported in UAE the rumours caused considerable alarm among parents.
Much more common and popular, however, are violent video games, ranging from first-person shooters centred around the use of weapons to games that glorify criminal acts or include sexual content.
Experts warn that exposure to violence in video games can lead to psychological issues, increases in aggressive behaviour or decreases in empathy and sensitivity to aggression.
“When it comes to violent video games, there has been extensive research on this issue, consistently confirming that violent video games do, in fact, have adverse effects on users,” said Tonya Schwab, a clinical psychologist.
“In my own clinical observations this is especially true for children and young adolescents.”, he added.
Schwab noted that there are several reasons why violent video games could be especially impactful for children and teens.
“The first of which is the way in which individuals become desensitised to violent content. If you were to look at situations in which individuals are faced with war and traumatic events related to violence, over time as a way of dealing with the psychological impact individuals become blunted to the effects of violence,” she said.
“The same is true with video games, with users becoming almost numb to the natural human response to violence.”
Additionally, Schwab said she believed that many video games “train users to abandon the empathy that we all would normally feel for our neighbours.”
“Instead it trains users to view them as a simple image or even enemy,” he said. “This I believe can translate into day-to-day life as well.”
Schwab also said “individuals unconsciously reenact experiences that they do not understand.”
“For example, when you watch a child play, they will often act out aspects of their life that they are trying to better understand of gain mastery over,” she noted. “Therefore, when a child is exposed to such violent content that they can’t fully understand it, it is natural for them to reenact the violence or aggression.”
“This, of course, causes concerns that peers and other children may be a victim,” she added. “Bullying is a tremendous issue among children and adolescents, which is why empathy and kindness are such important topics to be taught in schools. Adding violent video games into the mix will only increase the difficulty with bullying in most schools today. It is important that parents and schools do their part to reduce chances that children are hurt emotionally or physically.”
Schwab recommended that parents take a number of steps, the most important of which is maintaining a positive relationship with one’s child.
“You want your children and teens to trust in you enough to ask questions and to also collaborate on plans to choose appropriate video games and times for multi-media devices,” she said. “If you have a relationship with your child in which there is mutual respect, they are also much more likely to turn to you in their time of need.”
Other steps recommended by Schwab include limiting the time a child can spend on devices, setting limits on data, keeping multimedia devices in common areas of the home, and ensuring that parental controls on devices are used.
Another expert, Lynette Owens, the Founder and Global Director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families programme, suggested reminding “kids about the power and responsibility that comes with using the Internet.”
“We do need to allow kids to learn how to master using the Internet for their future success, but while they are online, they should understand how to be safe, be kind, and be smart about what they are doing,” she said. “Everything we do online reflects on us and is a record of our actions and character, and that we should have fun online but also learn how to use the Internet in productive ways as we get older.
Many gamers, however, have mixed feelings about claims that violent video games can lead to violence and aggression.
Surya Rai, a 21-year-old currently studying video game design in Pune – and who began playing video games at the age of four – said he believed there are often larger issues at play.
“I do not think video games add to violent behaviour anymore than my favourite superhero cartoons or Power Rangers,” he said. “In my opinion, games affect each child differently, and one must consider the socio-economic background and how they’re being treated at home in order to understand how impressionable they are towards games.” Additionally, Rai said he believes that “the actions of a handful of people and gamers make the community look bad.”
Rai, however, noted that “parents must play an active role in their child’s video gaming” and urged them to take note of a game’s age ratings.
“If you look at games as a form of conventional media, which it they are, and compare them to say, film, parents would not buy their child a ticket to see an A-rated movie,” he said. “Games have age ratings based on their content, called ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). If parents buy their nine-year-old Grand Theft Auto, where he can play online with people three times his age, the child will not separate it from a fantasy world. These people may become models a child will base his or her moral character on.”
“Instead of blaming the video games themselves, parents should play an active role,” he added. “If they research a game when they buy it, sit with the child for awhile and make sure they know it’s a fantasy world. parents will know the games themselves.”