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K-State Today

July 14, 2011

Parenting expert: Good parent-child relationship better than bans as way to counter violence in video games

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

Fairy tales, literature and video games all have one thing in common: violence. And according to the U.S. Supreme Court, they're all protected under the First Amendment -- the reason why the court recently rejected a ban on the sale of violent video games to children.

While video games and violence may seem to go hand in hand, a Kansas State University professor says the violence in the games is not the real problem.

"There is a mass hysteria about violence and video games, but it's the context and type of video game, and more importantly, it's the type of child," said Charles Smith, professor of family studies and human services and parenting expert.

Parents need to be aware and educated about the video games they are allowing their children to play. With a good parent-child relationship, most children can play a video game and will not become violent because of it, Smith said.

"A child without a connected parent relationship -- one who doesn't have respect for their parents and plays a violent video game over a certain length of time -- would worry me, but banning video games completely isn't the right answer either," Smith said.

Smith said banning violent video games could make them more attractive to children. The problem, he said, is in the definition of violence.

Several video games contain violence but also display honor and virtue. Just like great stories, video games can have a noble theme, Smith said. For example, defeating the dragon and rescuing the princess is a common fairy tale scenario that most parents may not consider violent.

"Violence is a part of a lot of great stories, literature and fairy tales," Smith said. "We don't want to ban good literature just because there's violence in it."

However, Smith said he is concerned with the rapid changes in video game technology.

"The realism in video games is changing constantly because of technology," he said. "This causes more realistic violence, and video games are becoming more and more immersive in terms of their nature."