Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Brains and Video Games
Video gaming is an amazing industry. It generates about $13 billion a year, which rivals Hollywood. Many video games can be a lot of fun and even provide some benefit for children, such as improvements in focus and concentration. Still, there have been lingering questions about the association between particularly violent video games and subsequent violent real-life behavior. To try to find the answer, the American Academy of Pediatrics looked at more than 1,000 studies, including reports from the Surgeon General's office. Its conclusion: there is a link between violent media images such as video games and aggressive behavior in some children.
Now, for the first time, a study has probed deep in the brain to figure out what is really happening when teenagers play these violent video games. Researchers found that teenagers who played particularly violent video games showed more activation in an area of the brain called the amygdala. This is an area responsible for conflict response and emotional arousal. Additionally, these same teens showed dampening in areas of the brain responsible for inhibitions. So it seemed the violent video games caused both an increase in conflict and emotional behavior while making these kids less inhibited.
To many parents, that sounds like a prescription for disaster. It's important to remember that realistic video games can provide an almost parallel reality for young children who haven't yet had a lot of real life experiences. So, you should choose wisely when purchasing these games, much in the same way you would prohibit children from watching certain movies. And spend some time watching or even playing these games with your children - you will get a better idea of how much impact these games might have. And as we head into the holiday season, I'm curious about any other strategies parents have when buying these games for their kids.
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