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Feb 11, 2013 4:00 PM by Matt Stafford

NEWS 5 SPECIAL: Are violent video games safe for kids?

It's been part of the nation's ongoing mental health debate; what affect does repeat exposure to violence have on people? More specifically what affect do violent video games have?

The games known as first-person shooters have been extremely popular. They traditionally top the best seller lists. One of the more popular games right now, Call of Duty: Black Ops, sold 5.6 million copies on the first day it was available last November; that's reportedly $360 million in sales.

Several of those purchases were for kids.

"They play a lot of first-shooter games, like Call of Duty, and Halo; they also play other games like Mario Bros. and Mindcraft," says Gwen Ingram, an El Paso County mother.

Sometimes Gwen gets in on the action too, but not with the first-person shooter games, as they're called.

"No, I don't play these games with them," says Ingram. "We play Mario, and I like to watch them."

"My husband plays more with them this (points to game); this is kind of their, they have a lot of daddy and son time," Ingram adds. She says she watches the games with her husband to decide if they're appropriate for their two sons.

"My take is that there is violence all around us, in all kinds of things, movies, real life; as long as you teach them what's real, what's not, what's acceptable, and what's not, then there's nothing wrong with them playing games like this," says Ingram.

Clinical psychologist Chris Phillips, from the Colorado Springs-area, sees a lot of soldiers and combat veterans. Many of them play these games.

"I would say the overwhelming majority of people I see are gaming in some way," explains Dr. Phillips. Not all of it is the violent gaming, but a lot of it is.

Dr. Phillips sees two sides to these combat-related games for the soldiers he treats; on one hand running the missions can be calming to them because it's something they're familiar with, but on the other hand the games let the soldiers have an escape from the issues they're dealing with.

"Aggressive games will increase thoughts of aggression, but we haven't seen scientific evidence that it actually increases behavioral aggression," explains Dr. Phillips. "We see, interestingly, the same phenomenon with certain kinds of sporting activities, where people will engage in those and they'll also have increased thoughts of aggression."

However, Dr. Phillips points out that there is a big difference when talking about grown adult members of the military playing these games compared to children.

"A child hasn't had that training or life experience, and, neurologically, they haven't developed the skill set yet to have the depth of understanding that an adult might."

It's not just other people's children Dr. Phillips recommends against giving the games to, but his own as well.

"Once I realized what they were playing I turned them off," explains Dr. Phillips.

News 5 responded by asking, "Why?"

"I was personally uncomfortable with watching them repeatedly be engaged in something of that nature at that age," Dr. Phillips said.

That feeling is not lost on mothers News 5 spoke with, along with their kids, at Game World & More in Security.

"I don't necessarily go by the rating scale, I go by the game and the purpose of the game, and the process of what happens in the game," explains Sherry Lundgren.

So how about the Call of Duty game that her son was playing while she was talking with News 5.

"I see it more like solving a puzzle, even though he's got a gun," says Lundgren.

So where do you draw the line when it comes to kids and violence?

"Kids in the 50s walked around with guns pretending to shoot each other, so I feel like guns are a part of a boy's life," says Ingram.

These two moms say, violent video games or not, raising kids all comes down to mom, dad, or the adult in charge.

"We're they're parents, and, ultimately, we make the choice," says Ingram.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board handles the rating system for video games. To get to their website, click here. On their site you'll also find a mobile app so that you can look up ratings on the go.

 

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