Are Video Games Bad for Your Kids? – by Eliut Morales

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New video games are released on a weekly, even daily basis. I’m sure your kids have asked you to buy them the new Pokémon game, and you probably asked yourself, “Didn’t I buy this a few months back?” Eventually, you will find yourself in a situation when you must say to them that enough is enough, but when do you reach that point?

Some will argue that playing video games has long-term negative effects on children. They will argue that video games make children violent, less focused in school, and anti-social. Much research has been made to either prove or disprove this point, but in the end, the person who controls the effects of gaming is you, the parent.

You must be the one to set boundaries when it comes to what games your kids play. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone! All video games go through the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to determine what audiences they should be aimed towards. This is where your decision starts. Games like Pokémon, Legend of Zelda, and many sports games have a rating of E, making them a good choice of game for everyone. Games like Overwatch, Fortnite, and League of Legends have a rating of T, which means they include things such as mild violence, and some strong language, making them appropriate for teens. Then there are games like Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, and Call of Duty, which are given a rating of M, aimed specifically for mature audiences due to strong violence, harsh language, and sexual content. ESRB has these ratings to allow parents to decide what games their children are allowed to purchase and play. Retailers will not allow a child to purchase a rated M game without a parent present.

Games can negatively affect children in a number of ways if limits and boundaries are not set in place. Children may have violent tendencies if they are playing games that are not appropriate for their age. Spending too much time playing games can affect the social skills of children, making them less friendly, and sometimes outright angry when playing. Lastly, lack of exercise from playing too much can result in your child losing energy to do well on important matters, like school. Fortunately, all of these problems are easily avoided if you are present in setting schedules and limits to your child’s gaming.

As an avid gamer, I can also tell you that video games have many positive benefits. Gaming plays a role in hand-eye coordination, the ability to process information quickly, and problem solving. These skills are crucial in today’s society, and with your help, your kids can develop skills early on with engaging, age-appropriate games. I have been playing video games since I could hold a controller. From playing Pokémon on my GameBoy as a child, to now winning many Victory Royales in the craze that is Fortnite, I have experienced firsthand these benefits.

The Teen Center here at the Community Center features gaming systems for your children to enjoy when they are here. You can be sure they will be enjoying a good challenge! Our Teen Center staff is knowledgeable when it comes to choosing a wide variety of appropriate games for teens to play. Your gamers can test their skills in a social environment every Friday from 5:30pm-7:30pm in our weekly Xbox Tournaments. The Teen Center is also available to rent for birthday parties which is another great way to combine socializing and gaming.

The importance is not to fear video games from what you hear from your friends, or what you read online. You have to be able to draw the line when you deem it appropriate, but allow your children to express their interest in games. Chances are you probably play a bit yourself. Candy Crush, anyone?

Eliut Morales in the Writer/Content Specialist for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at 703-335-8872 or via email at e.morales@manassasparkva.gov.

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