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Do teenagers imitate the violence in computer games?

How much do you know about the content of the games your teen plays on their X-Box or Playstation? It is an activity they tend to do in their room and you respect their privacy and do not go in there that often. Sometimes you get the distinct feeling that they are in a different world when playing these video games; you have to call them several times before they respond to come down to eat their food and they rarely talk to you about their gaming. When children are small they tend to regale you with endless blow by blow accounts of the games they play.

As they become teenagers there is a growing lack of communication. They are reluctant to let you into their world, adults do not belong there. Many of these games consoles now have online capability and you may pass their room and here them talking to someone online about the game, often the person they are talking to is a complete stranger, may even live in another country.

Gaming is a potential area for addiction and some of the games being played by teenagers are very violent. Video games in the US and the UK are rated by age and most large retailers will ask a teenager for ID before selling them a game rated MA. The attempts by various states to support a voluntary industry code with legislation has failed several times, with several judges ruling that there is no proven link between violent games and teen violent behavior and that it contravenes the first amendment to ban these games to under eighteens. Sexually explicit games are covered by law but violence is still a grey area.

When should you worry about your teen playing video games? Most addiction is categorized by a change in behavior; so look for changes in your teen’s activities and communication with those around them. If they stop going out and spend hours in their room, try getting them going outside and see what their reaction is; withdrawal from the addiction will show as angry irritable behavior. Are they getting into trouble at school, not giving in homework for example? When you call them out of their room for a meal, do they collect it and disappear back into the room with it?

If you interrupt the game and they become hostile you need to take this seriously. Aggressive anti social behavior is not necessarily caused by video games, but withdrawal from family life and hour upon hour spent on the games console is addictive behavior and unhealthy. Take the console away from your teen and see if they can manage without it and return to socializing with family and friends. If their reaction to this is extreme, you need to get them help, they need reeducating as to what leisure time is and their view of the world needs re-orientating. A wilderness camp is as far removed from gaming in your room as is possible and may be just the treatment to put your teenager back on track.

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