How dangerous are first person shooter video games for my 11 year old?
anonymous Asks ...
My ex husband lets our son play violent first person shooter games when he goes over for the weekend. My son is 11. This has been a source of conflict for us in the past and we are trying to work together with more civility. I need to pick my battles carefully. How damaging is this to my son. I get concerned when I read that kids like Adam Lanza were addicted to these kinds of games. Is this a battle I need to fight?
Penny Bell Says ...
I can understand your misgivings about your son playing first person shooter games. Many parents worry about the effects of games like Halo and Doom, which are played from the perspective of someone shooting a gun, on their impressionable children and teens, particularly in the light of recent school shootings. Although it seems reasonable to believe that playing these games leads to violent behaviour, this has yet to be proven.
What has been shown, though, in several studies of the brains of young people playing first person shooter games is that aggressive thoughts and violent shooter games activate similar parts of the brain. Whether this has any relationship to violent behaviour, though, has not been shown. A recent study using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging whilst students played first person shooter games found that rather than the reward centres of the brain lighting up when players acted out violent roles, it was more a matter of winning or losing that regulated the player’s mood.
Some researchers have found that action games have some real benefits including improved spatial reasoning and sharper attention skills. It has also been suggested that during the normally aggressive developmental phase in early teen boys, violent video games may have a useful cathartic effect, and take the place of actual violent behaviour, like bullying.
It seems it also depends on personality type, home life and other factors as to how children respond to video games and whether they will eventually become addicted to them. And on the plus side, screen time that is dedicated to video games as opposed to television doesn't allow much room for snacking, so weight gain is less likely.
One thing that has been found to be detrimental with all exciting computer games is that if they are played before bedtime, sleep can be affected, with children taking longer to fall asleep and waking during the night.
I hope this information, taken from real studies, is helpful for you as you make your decision about which “battles” to pick.