Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
Life-changing. That sums up the reviews I read about Jane's game, SuperBetter. A personal life coach wrapped into a $4.99 app that is actually fun to play -- and will change your life in a super better way. I nodded with excitement (and already added over 21 minutes to my life!) as I watched her TED video three times.
But if a game truly has the power to unlock such positivity on people's lives, it made me think about some of the other "what ifs" behind the power of gaming, especially its effect on the developing brain. So, what happens when we expose our kids - our next generation of leaders, cure-seekers, and innovators - to games that are not-so-super?
As a mom of three boys who like to shoot and blast things, and as co-creator of a wholesome game that teaches kids to solve real-world problems, my mind immediately worries about all the violent video games that are out there. You know, those "M" for Mature games that parents turn their backs to while the kids stay entertained for hours.
Here are eight ways that I found violent games are bad for your kids:
1. First-Hand Role in Killing Process. To kids, virtual experiences feel very real, not only because the graphics today are so amazing, but because they are taking on a first-person role in the killing process. Rather than just passively watching a rated-R violent movie, when kids play a game, they are one of the main characters inside the adventure. The entire experience becomes a more meaningful -- and deadly - in their brains, which are forming new connections every day.
2. Measure Success through Killing. You know that "I did it!" feeling you get from Jane's SuperBetter game when you accomplish a mini task? A feeling of success should come from positive, challenging achievements -- not the accomplishment of killing someone else. What kind of message is that sending to our kids?
I don't know about you, but I don't want my kids learn about the birds and bees through a game. -- Laura St. John
3. Disrespect Women. I am a pretty tough little chick: I live in a house filled with plenty of testosterone, and they all know not to mess with me. But majority of the ultra-violent games feature violence toward women. Now if some games can teach the habits of heroes, why would we ever harness the power of gaming to be mean toward me, or your girls -- your daughters, my boys' future girlfriends?
4. Inappropriate Sexual Content. Just like you wouldn't allow your child to go to or rent a rated R movie because of its inappropriate sexual content, many violent games are just as bad, if not worse. I don't know about you, but I don't want my kids learn about the birds and bees through a game.
5. Resolve Conflicts through Violence. Violent video games show kids how to express themselves physically, in a violent way. It's already way easier for a child to push another child when they're angry than to express their emotions and resolve a conflict through words. My boys have their fair share of quarrels, but I don't want them to learn they should resolve conflicts by hurting each other.
6. De-Sensitizes Killing. When you hear the tragic, heart-wrenching stories such as what happened in Newtown, Conn., you wonder how exposure to violent games de-sensitizes people to the act of killing other people. The thought of my little boys picking up a gun to shoot someone is not only disgusting, it teaches them to disrespect life. What if that could carry over to their own life or others? Ick, that makes me shudder.
7. Explicit Language. The first time one of my sons was exposed to a violent game, I learned quickly that he was guilty after he said, "Oh, sh@#!" Enough said.
8. Fuzzy Line Between Real and Make-Believe. Little kids have a hard time distinguishing the line between the real-world and the virtual gaming world, as young minds are still forming what is real and what is make-believe. I put it into perspective like this: If my kids believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny, then how could they possibly understand that these other bad guys in games, who look real, are not really real?
Now don't get me wrong: I am all for allowing kids plenty of screen time to be useful, productive, creative, and help make the world a better place. When used appropriately, technology has the power and potential to be the best tool ever invented. So now go use your power-ups for the greater good, and help make the world a SuperBetter place.
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