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Negative, nagging parents cause kids to play video games more, not less

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 13 2011 10:20 a.m. MDT

Nagging your child repeatedly to stop playing video games may actually be fueling his desire to play them, according to a new Michigan State University study.

Interviews of more than 500 middle school students revealed that kids who considered their parents "nags" or who exhibited other negative behavior, like a lack of parental monitoring, were more likely to play video games.

But it's tough for researchers to say just what causes the increased screen time.

"Does a parent's negative interactions with their child drive the child into the world of video games, perhaps to escape the parent's negativity?" said psychology professor Linda Jackson. "Or, alternatively, does videogame playing cause the child to perceive his or her relationship with the parent as negative?"

Video games are often studied and even more frequently criticized. Another recent Canadian study of video games found that it was the competitive nature of the game — not the violent content — that promoted aggression.

The study had subjects play four different video games ranging from violent and competitive to only violent, to only competitive, to neutral.

Subjects' aggression levels were tested after the games by having them prepare a sauce for a taster who they were told didn't like hot or spicy food, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Those who had played the competitive games, whether they were violent or not, made the sauce spicier than those who had played only the violent or neutral games.

Yet despite results like these, there are studies that show benefits to gaming and gaming technology.

Sport-based, interactive video games not only help kids exercise, but they're also increasingly popular in nursing homes as safe and healthy entertainment.

In fact, Microsoft's Kinect, a motion-sensing, controller-less device that allows individuals to play games simply by moving, may also serve as a protective mechanism for the elderly.

Researchers at the University of Missouri are studying the infrared light scans gathered by the Kinect to see if they can detect changes in body movement patterns that might indicate early symptoms of illness or precursors to falls.

Regarding interpersonal benefits, BYU researchers found that 11- to 16-year-old girls who played age-appropriate video games with their dads showed three times more pro-social behaviors and four times less aggression than boys, plus an increased connectedness to family. The impact with boys was almost negligible, researchers said, perhaps because boys are playing video games much more frequently than girls and it doesn't seem like a special parent-child bonding moment.

To keep technology healthy instead of harmful, parents can do several things, experts say.

First, know what your child is playing. Pay attention to the games they're buying, renting or playing at friends' houses. Be aware of the game-provided labels, such as E for Everyone or M for Mature, but even more, know what's in the video game and judge accordingly.

Second, play video games with your kids. Even parents who lack hand/controller coordination can still sit with a child for an hour and talk about the game and why their child enjoys it. Not only does it show a child that mom and dad respect their hobbies, but it allows parents to get a better idea of what's in the game.

And to avoid nagging, set limits and rules with your child ahead of time regarding the types of games allowed and the length of time they're to be played.

For more information visit: www.commonsensemedia.org

email: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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