Will playing video games make a person more violent?
Does playing video games make a person desensitized to violence?
Do I worry that my kids play video games?
These questions come up all the time. Just recently on an unschooling discussion list, a person was talking about how she didn't want her 9 yr old playing Grand Theft Auto (GTA). She worried about it desensitizing her son. She knew he learned a lot from video games but she wanted him to wait for a few years before he played this one.
I didn't always allow my kids to make their own choices. I used to say that we'd never have a video game system or cable TV. I've come a long way, haven't I? I now know that allowing my kids to make their own choices and talking with them as they are making decisions is a much better way to go. Instead of an adversarial relationship we have a partnership. I'll help them to what information they need and tell them what I know about different things, but ultimately its up to them.
GTA did show up in our lives, pretty quick after we decided to unschool. I decided that I wasn't going to censor their viewing of things or playing of games. Now, that being said, it doesn't mean I just leave them to their own devices. We do things together. I'm always there, part of their life. So if they see something they want to watch or play, I'm usually along for the ride. I can help them to find out about it. Remind them of previous choices, give my opinion, but try not to judge what they are looking into. Which is sometimes hard, but I'm getting better. :) We'll often look things up to see what reviewers say, a good objective viewpoint.
When Alec decided he wanted to check out GTA I was a little apprehensive but I thought,,"OK, here's my test, can I walk the talk?" I brought him to a video rental store and we rented GTA. I knew that there was going to be car theft (obviously) but other people had also warned me about the prostitutes and other stuff. So I was a little worried about that. We sat down and he played it. He enjoyed driving the cars around, but that was about it. We didn't even see the prostitutes and that was the end of that. Wow. It really didn't keep his interest. He likes to do a lot of problem solving and strategy type stuff and it wasn't there for him. Maybe it was over his head, he was around 9 at the time, I don't know, but I do know he got bored with it really quickly. It even went back to the rental place before it was due.
So that being said, while playing the game he did run over people with the cars. Now, maybe that would bother some parents. Is that encouraging violent behavior? I don't think so. Its a game. He hasn't gone out and tried to steal a car or even tried to hurt anyone. The times when people/media has linked certain violent behavior to video games you have to stop and look at those particular circumstances. Don't you? Did those people who committed awful crimes have loving homelives? Did they have parents who were involved in their lives? Did they have positive role models in their lives? Nope. No, no and no.
Being violent or aggressive in real life has a lot more to do with how that person is being treated and the life they are leading than an easy out as blaming a video game.
Back to the discussion that was going at the discussion list. The person said she knew how much video games can teach people. Can't a flight simulator teach a person to fly? Can't math games(and other games) teach a person to do math? Yep. If that person is interested in what they are doing. So then we could ask--Do you think your son/daughter is going to pick up a video game and think, "now I'm going to learn how to blow a person away, cool, then I can go do it to someone in real life"? I know, no, of course not. These kids that actually went and killed people were very troubled. They had very disturbed lives. So different from homes where kids are respected and loved.
Why do so many people fear video games? Is it because they are so new? So popular?
Do I think video games will make a person violent? Nope. Does playing a video game make a person desensitized to violence? Nope. Am I worried that my kids play a lot of video games? Nope again, not a bit.
We have to trust our children. We have to know that our kids won't want to hurt someone else. If there is anger or resentment in a child I hope that the parent would try and figure it out, try and change something. Something isn't working, find something different.
Our different was unschooling. And it has lead to 3 very happy, joyful, even gentle kids.