Stories about: Violent video games

Never learning violence

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Last week, the New York Times featured an article entitled “Unlearning Gun Violence”, which discussed the work of an epidemiologist who, after a decade of fighting TB, HIV, and cholera in Africa, returned to a life-threatening epidemic in his hometown of Chicago—violence. He uses the same techniques that worked in Africa, teaching perpetrators and victims of violence to prevent recurrence of this deadly cycle. Such secondary and tertiary prevention is effective—but after the fact. Prevention of future violence can only happen after violence has occurred, identifying those at risk for aggression and victimization.

One day earlier, a research report in Pediatrics detailed the dramatic increase in gun violence in PG-13 movies, tripling over the past 3 decades. Movies that any child can watch (hopefully, but not necessarily with parental guidance) are now more violent than those that are restricted to those 17 or older unless accompanied by an adult. One day later, I was asked to present research in support of a bill in the Massachusetts Senate that would appoint an expert commission to study whether and how video games and other interactive media influence and teach their users.

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My 10-year-old grandson is playing M-rated video games and his parents don’t seem to mind–what can I do?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Q:My ten year old grandson is seemingly addicted to his Xbox and is allowed to play M-rated games. On weekend he spends hours on end playing. He becomes very defensive when you call him. His room has become his dungeon and his parents allow it, I guess to keep him out of their hair! Any advice?

~ Exasperated over Xbox, Rockaway Park, NY

 A: Dear Exasperated,

Your question highlights a very common issue with raising children in today’s digital domain—namely, that different attitudes and rules about media use can be a source of much tension, not only between “digital native” children and their “digital immigrant” parents, but also between parenting and grand-parenting generations. Rest assured that you are not the first grandparent to disagree with parenting choices made by their children for their grandchildren – and it may not be possible to convince your children that you have a better idea.

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How do I get my 4 year old’s grandpa not to play violent video games with him?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston

Q:My father-in-law bonds with my 4-year-old son by playing video games. Recently, he bought a LEGO pirates game, rated for 10 year olds, and the two play it for about an hour every time they see each other. I love that they spend time together, but since they started playing this game, my son has become more violent. My father-in-law doesn’t see the problem, even though I’ve tried talking with him about it. Is there research that might help convince him to choose other bonding activities?

-Baffled over bonding in Palo Alto, CA

A: Dear Baffled,

You know your child better than anyone else, so you are most sensitive to a change in his behavior—and you are in the best position to guide him toward the person you want him to become.

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Are violent games more damaging for children with a central auditory processing disorder?

Michael Richard, MD
Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use.

Last week he answered your questions about how to talk to your kids about scary stories in the news.

Here’s this week’s question:

Q: We just found out that our 6-year-old son has a central auditory processing disorder. We do not have TV or video games in our house, but when he visits friends’ houses, they sometimes play the older brother’s extremely violent video games, such as Call of Duty. Since there are fewer screens in our house, when he visits friends with these games, he is very eager to watch and play. Are these very violent games more damaging for children with a central auditory processing disorder? Would even a small amount of screen time with violent games have a harmful effect?
Learning about Learning Disabilities, in Brooklyn, NY

A: Dear Learning about Learning Disabilities,

There seem to be a few questions here: How do violent media affect any child at age six? And does the central auditory processing disorder put your son at increased risk for being influenced by media?

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