Technology is rapidly transforming our lives and the reality is that nowadays children spend every day of the week on a computer game for a short while. Regular screen time has become the norm and online games have become a part of growing up.
While some parents argue that playing games is solitary and a waste of time, new evidence shows that online games can help a child’s logic, decision making process and improve coordination.
But with more video games being available than ever before, here at PC Byte we carried out our own survey and asked 1,004 Australians aged over 16 “what makes a video game most inappropriate for kids?”
Violence, Sexual Content and Adult Themes ‘Violence’ ranked first with 44.7%, followed by ‘sexual content’ at 14.6% and then ‘adult themes’ at 7.9%. Susan McLean, Director of Cyber Safety Solutions which offers online safety advice to parents and children says, she’s surprised by one of these statistics.
“I would have thought sexual content would have been higher than this percentage. There are many games out there such as Roblox and Clash of Clans
which are pitched at children which have a sexual component and all too often adults can talk to children online.”
Associate Professor Daniel Johnson, Director of the Games Research Lab at Queensland University of Technology says overall these results are expected.
“These are all common concerns and I thought they would rank high, but even if some games are perceived violent, the impact of violence in games and everyday life is hotly contested by academic researchers. Most research suggests that the effect of watching violent games is not that significant.”
An issue which parents may not be aware of is that some games intended for adults, when looking at graphics alone, can appear appropriate for children. An example is Conker’s Bad Fur Day, released in 2001. At surface level it is visually similar to popular and kid-friendly games such as Donkey Kong and Crash Bandicoot. However, this game features overlysexualised characters, violence and swearing, both obvious and cleverly disguised. I think we all know what they mean by “feck.”
Bad Language ‘Bad language’ came fifth in the survey with 47 people airing their concerns. Susan McLean says it’s very common in online (live) games.
“Bad language in live games is a huge issue in games even like Minecraft. People have a duty to report users for bad language, and if they don’t then they are enabling it even more. Everyone has a responsibility to speak up, block and report.”
While bad language from other gamers is not something easy to avoid, simply looking at the classification can greatly help avoid bad language. In the past it was uncommon for games to include swearing, now it is commonplace and almost expected. The 2006 game Scarface: The World is Yours broke the Guinness World Record with the word “fuck” being said 5,688 times.
Daniel Johnson urges people to check classifications, “most games have a certification just like films and television, there is a classification system which means some games will have stronger language.”
While some of our respondents did mention the game classification as their answer, most stated the R-rating and seemed not to consider M or MA as serious.
Promotes Obesity Some of the more unusual responses to emerge from the survey included ‘computer games promoted obesity.’
“It’s that age-old-adage, everything in moderation. Reading is inactive, so if a child reads for hours then they’ll get fat too. It’s only when they sit for hours that this can be a problem. And think of the merits of games, strategy, maths, deduction and solving clues,” says Susan McLean.
Gamers may be drawn to their consoles, computers or mobile devices for more reasons than just entertainment. Research has found that the urge to play a game is similar to that of a drug addict. This leads to a dependency of screen-time and could be a contributing factor to obesity in children who play excessive amounts of video games.
Daniel Johnson sums it up best, “if children play games moderately, there are a myriad of benefits including social connectedness. Latest indications show that the absence of a video game can have negative outcomes.”
Fantasy vs Reality
Video games often transform someone to a different world, but one person claimed they went a step too far and ‘enticed children into a fantasy land where they received more rewards than real life.’ Susan McLean says it’s an odd response, “parents need to step up and teach
children fact from fiction and should know how to parent in the digital space, they have a duty to inform their children.”
‘Hateful speech and portrayals of race/gender/sexuality’ was another concern of our respondents. Video games have the unfortunate reputation of often showing women as weak, sexual objects with unrealistic body proportions and misrepresenting different races with Hollywood stereotypes. Some games are stepping away from this mold, but it is still a problem that exists in modern games. For young children to play as the main character where they can abuse women and see different races stereotyped could shape how they think it is appropriate to behave. It’s important for parents to pay attention to the game’s classification, what content is in the games their children play and clarify the differences between fantasy in games and reality.
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