Gaming and Violent Media Content: Suggestions and Solutions.

Despite conclusive evidence to the contrary, many parents and even some professionals are still in denial about the effects of violent media content, including movies and games, on aggressive behavior. There is no questions that violent media content causes aggression in children. With the rising popularity of games like Fortnite, what can we do about it?

For more information and to understand the research, visit Gaming under Inform.

Here are some suggestions from the experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics and our partners who are clinical psychologists.

Suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics

  • If you have children under age 6, do your best to eliminate violent media content from their "media diet." Children this young don't have the capacity to distinguish fantasy from reality. Even cartoon violence alters how they understand the world.

  • Learn as much as you can about the media your children use. Refer to available ratings from the industry (i.e., the Motion Picture Association of America, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board) and from nonprofits like Common Sense Media. Let those ratings guide what you allow in your home. Remember that "all my friends are allowed to watch it" remains the weakest argument in the kid book. See Movie Ratings and What They Mean.

  • Sit down and view or play with your children. Not only will you gain a deeper understanding of a really important aspect of their lives, you'll have a chance to offer an adult perspective on what they're seeing. You're guaranteed to find opportunities to share and explain the values that your family holds dear. Watch the video How to Bond with Your Child through Media.

  • Assess your children's shows and games with an eye toward what they're teaching. Is violence normalized? Funny? Sexy? Racist? Rewarded with money or status? Or are the painful, long-lasting consequences of violence dramatized? A more realistic look at the consequences of violence can provide kids needed perspective.

  • Feel empowered to restrict your children from playing games that reward shooting, killing, or harming other people. Video games are powerful teachers—they can help children learn to cooperate and help each other and to multitask in certain ways. However, video games can also reinforce a sense of constant danger and of positive reinforcement for violent acts. The gaming world offers enough compelling content that violence never has to be a part of entertainment.

Additional Suggestions

  • Make IRL (In Real Life) a priority - Teach kids moderation and the importance of balance in their virtual and actual lives. Make time for face-to-face interactions and outdoor play. Restrict violent video games but allow virtual sports, particularly if they take up a real one.

  • Talk about how video games make them feel and why they use them. If your child is using video games as an escape, this can be extremely problematic. Talk to your pediatrician. If he enjoys a certain aspect, figure out how you can replicate that experience in real life. Ask them to consider other memorable experiences in which they had fun and were happy. Those experience were most likely screen-free. Encourage more of those experiences.

  • Explain the physiology of video games with your kids. As children get older, they are particularly interested in how their brains and bodies work. Don’t be afraid to talk about the reward center of their brains and how video games are designed to manipulate their sense of achievement. Explain that when a game manipulates their brains into feeling good, it makes finding enjoyment in healthier activities, like playing outside, difficult. Ask them if they mind being duped.

  • Tell them about persuasive design and how games are deliberately developed using human psychology, game theory and statistics to keep players playing so developers can make money. This YouTube video does a really great job explaining why Fortnite is so popular.

  • Encourage movement after video game use to counter the increased levels of dopamine which can cause aggression and irritability.

  • Consider limiting or restricting video game use during the week when kids are busy with school and need to sleep. Encourage creative and/or outdoor play. Keep art supplies, like paint, boxes, beads, glue and tape, on hand. Consider your child’s personality. Are they willing to sit and color? Or do they like to use their gross motor skills to climb or carry heavy objects (like the trash)?

  • Encourage skill development activities before allowing video game play. This can include 20-30 minutes of reading, writing, math facts, chores, running around outside or playing with a sibling or neighbor.