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'Don't buy violent video games for Christmas'

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'Don't buy violent video games for Christmas'
16:45 CET+01:00
Gaming addiction expert Sven Rollenhagen advises parents in Sweden to stay clear of increasingly violent video games as they set off in search of last-minute Christmas presents for their children.

Most Swedes received their December paycheck today but I've been fielding calls from worried parents for weeks now. They all call to ask me if it's okay to succumb to pressure from their kids and buy them video games that are increasingly violent.

I tell them "no" every single time, because I firmly believe that violent video games are a ticking bomb.

An increasing number of kids 'love' video games. Not only the ones with a traditional heroic storyline where a prince sets off to kill the evil dragon.

We've left fairy tales far behind.

We're talking realistic. These games portray war, sometimes even crime. There are guns, rifles, grenades, and good-old fashioned dynamite.

The point is to kill.

Some even lack a significant storyline and the focus is more or less entirely on the killing.

I am a gamer myself, and I find the content of some of these violent games to be grossly unsuitable for younger children. There are, of course, age limits set on many of these extremely violent games but if a parent buys it as a gift for a child, the limits are completely useless.

Parents often feel pressured to buy video games for their young children even though the recommendation is that the gamers be 18 or older.

I've seen many cases with children as young as seven.

One thing that strikes me as odd is that many parents would automatically usher their kids out of the room if such brutal violence came up during a film.

In borderline cases, let's say if you were watching Pulp Fiction with your kids, the parent would step in, contextualize and offer an explanation, even condemnation.

Oddly, with video games, the parent is often not even in the room. And where a film lasts two hours, many children who develop a taste for gaming will be stuck console-in-hand for hours.

But the rules are different in the world of video games. Age recommendations, defined by for example by PEGI, are there to protect underage children against such exposure to violence.

But it's simply not working.

Christmas is just around the corner and I am contacted by an increasing number of parents that are worried and want guidance. Their intuition is telling them "don't buy it", but they feel pressured by their own kids, many of whom resort to the classic “but all my friends have it”.

Then parents give in, acting against their own intuition.

My advice to all parents is: Check and respect the age recommendations. Don't give your child the violent video game.

Research frpm Karolinska Institutet has shown a correlation between violent video games and a decline in empathy. There is also a correlation with rising aggression.

It seems every year we hear of a new school shooting. It is time for people to question the entertainment industry's glorification of violence.

So, dare I give my child a violent video game this Christmas?

Please don't.

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