Is virtual violence affecting your child?

Is virtual violence affecting your child?

24 July 2023

Have you ever heard your six-year-old yelling “Die, die, die!” at the top of his lungs while playing a video game? If so, you probably share some growing concerns about the effects of virtual violence on our kids.

Let’s face it, kids are becoming digitally savvy at younger ages and as parents we are always worried about how our kids would respond to violent imagery. Virtual violence is any act of aggression your child might absorb through TV, movies, video games, as well as animated violence in cartoons and interactive games. News reports of real-life tragedies also deliver an endless loop of virtual violence; it is simply everywhere. Fact is, technology is part of life and kids are plugged into devices like Tv’s, game consoles, tablets, and smartphones before they can even ride a bike.

Here’s the kicker though, what children see influences how they behave. Virtual violence leaves a psychological impact. Studies have shown that children who watch violent TV programs for a long period of time tend to show higher levels of aggressive behavior during their teenage years and are more likely to participate in criminal behavior as adults.

The consequences of exposure to violent media are likely to vary according to a child’s age and developmental stage. There is consensus amongst the scientific community that early experiences often matter more than those that occur later in life. Children under the age of 6 can’t always distinguish between fantasy and reality. Turns out that preschool years mark a sensitive period for social, cognitive, and behavioral development. Continuous exposure to virtual violence could desensitize children to violence, which may be the worst outcome – imagine a generation of kids growing up thinking that violence is acceptable and unremarkable. It’s perfectly fine to pretend to be Batman, but if that turns into kicking and punching, that’s going too far.

Pediatric guidelines generally recommend that infants younger than 2 years old should avoid screen time altogether, while children aged 2 to 5 should spend no more than 1 hour per day on screens. Problems with restful sleep, nightmares, eating disorders, anxiety, fear, obesity, and aggression may be some of the concerning signs to look out for if virtual violence is impacting your child negatively.

As parents, we can’t shield our kids from all forms of virtual violence, but we can minimize the harm that violent content can do by limiting what young children watch and play. Use parental controls and media ratings. Young kids should always ask permission before they watch or play games. Nothing can replace parental involvement, so always discuss what you see and advocate values such as respect, tolerance, kindness and mutual understanding.

Although the majority of parents endorse the idea that media violence contributes to aggressive behavior in children, statistics show that only 43% of parents actively monitor and intervene to prevent their child from viewing unsuitable programmes.

As parents, we are the gatekeepers of our children’s access to media. Let’s do more to make our kids sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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