TAMIU Professor Provides Insight on Video Games for Children

TAMIU Professor Provides
Insight on Video Games for Children

While video games may top many children’s wish lists, parents concerned about any hysteria surrounding video games leading to violent behavior should be assured that it’s just that: hysteria, according to Texas A&M International University expert on the effects of video games on children and adults, Dr. Christopher Ferguson.

“There is no good data linking violent video game exposure with increased aggression or behavior problems. In fact, as video game sales have skyrocketed, violent crimes among both youth and adults have plummeted,” explained Dr. Ferguson, assistant professor, psychology.

Although much attention is focused on the supposed negative effects of games, there is increasing research to indicate that playing video games, including violent video games, may have some positive impacts.

“Action games, such as ‘Call of Duty,’ appear to foster visuospatial intelligence. These abilities are useful for careers such as engineering, architecture and surgery. For reasons that aren’t well understood, non-violent games don’t seem to convey the same advantages,” continued Ferguson.

He added that many online games, such as “World of Warcraft,” also provide opportunities for social development, especially for shy kids.

A Pew Research Foundation study found that video games, overall, provide a net social gain for children to increase their interest in civic engagement. Violent games do not decrease aggression any more than they increase it, but they may provide more of a general opportunity for children to unwind, relax and distract themselves from stress.

“That’s not to say that every game is meant for children or that parents are not within their rights to restrict games they’re not comfortable with. It’s just a comforting message that there are no ‘life or death’ decisions here and that games are not going to harm children,” Ferguson said.

“The only cautionary note I would add is that game play, like any media use, should be indulged in moderation, balanced with physical activity and time for studying. Parents might also in advance set a reasonable amount of game play time per day—an hour or two for all media on schooldays, perhaps longer on weekends and summers—because it’s easier to stick to an established rule than invent a new one once an undesirable behavior becomes a habit,” he suggested.

“Above all else, parents should try to spend some time playing the games with their kids. It’s a great way to spend time together and will likely give parents greater insight into the games their kids are playing and more credibility when parents decide to ban a particular game,” Ferguson recommended.

Like movies, commercial games also come with ratings and are posted on the box, front and back. It also includes “content descriptors” explaining the reasons the game received that certain rating. Parents can get more information on ratings at the Entertainment Software Ratings Board Web site esrb.com

Parents can also check out reviews of games that provide additional information on content at gamespot.com

For more information, contact Ferguson at cferguson@tamiu.edu, 326.2636 or visit offices in Dr. F. M. Canseco Hall, room 312F.

University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu