I realize the previous post was flippant about a topic that many would consider to be serious. I want you to know that I have considered—or fretted about, at any rate—the possible effects of video game violence on my kids’ psyches.
According to my meager research—because, though I am a concerned parent, I am also a lazy one—it seems you can find evidence to support whichever position you want to take on the matter. That said, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says pretty unequivocally that violent video games will screw your kid up, though of course they phrase it more elegantly. Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine also reportedly found that MRI scans of young men who played violent video games for a week displayed changes in the brain regions related to cognitive function and emotional control.
And, though my engineer husband abhors anecdotal evidence, there is the experience of my family. One morning last week, I mentioned to Billup an odd dream I’d had, where the toilet was in the master bedroom and people kept coming in to pee right by the bed. (It was disturbing.) Billup then relayed that she’d dreamed she was playing a first-person game of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” (MW3). Where she was in the game, shooting at people and being shot at. And where she apparently died, though she reassured me, “In my dream, I knew I was playing a video game and I came back to life again, so it was no big deal.” Right. Not a big deal at all.
The “Call of Duty” games appear to affect Ted, too. Twice last week, he came up to the living room, agitated and angry, while the kids continued their shooting downstairs. Both times, he stalked about the living room, put away a couple of stray items, then flopped down on the couch, moaned about how unhappy he was and directed a few mean-spirited comments at me. He acknowledged at one point, “Maybe it is the game. Maybe MW3 is making me more aggressive! Because I feel so angry right now.”
He will, of course, deny having uttered those words. And there’s a good possibility that he was angry and unpleasant not because of the game’s neurocognitive effects but because he’s competitive and hates losing and even those Christmas noobs have surpassed his ability to kill. But let’s pretend that at least some of his behavior had to do with the video game and not his inherent personality.
So, what to do?
The best I can come up with is trying to limit how much they play (I mean Boof and Billup; Ted will have to police his own use). Maybe it’s my Midwestern sensibility, but forbidding it completely strikes me as being both extreme and unrealistic. Moderation is therefore key. As we already have a rule against media use during the week, I’m happy to know there are some built-in limits on overexposure to MW3.
Never mind that Boof and Billup, having been deprived of television and video games during the week, gorge themselves on media every weekend. Is it that much better for them to not be playing video games Monday through Thursday if they then play two, three hours each on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday? Plus, there’s some evidence that certain members of our family are unable to practice moderation.
But Ted and I have always parented on a wing and a prayer. Why stop now?