Marina Krcmar, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest (Winston-Salem, NC), thinks that most parents just do not have a clue about the affects video games can have on children. Krcmar studies the impact of video games and other media on children and teens. She doles out free advice in a press release urging parents to pick games that are age appropriate and to get educated about the video games kids should be playing.
"Greater realism leads to greater immersion; greater immersion leads to greater effects. One of those effects can be increased aggression."
"The T-rating and M-rating for video games are not very consistent and not very informative for parents, so parents need more information," Krcmar says.
"The quality of the graphics and the sound in this year’s new video games is amazing," she says, "It’s getting closer and closer to virtual reality."
She adds that "war games like Call of Duty: Black Ops" the level of immersion should raise red flags for parents. Of course, the game is rated "M” by the ESRB, which should also raise some red flags for parents.
"We learn what’s right and what’s wrong by consequences," she says. In many of the most popular games, shooting people results in no negative consequences. In fact, there is actually a reward."
Next Krcmar tackles Kinect, saying that for non-violent games this can be a good thing, but adds that violent games that use Kinect put players into the action because they are controlling the action simply by moving.
"But, as violent motions feel more natural and the line between real and virtual blurs, there is likely to be a stronger link to increased aggression after playing the game," she says.
One thing most will agree with is some of her recommendations as alternatives to first-person shooters for children like Professor Layton and the Curious Village and the latest "Harvest Moon" game.
In addition to problem-solving, Krcmar says there are some beneficial effects of video games on children. Research shows that video games help with hand eye coordination and teach us how to scan the environment for important visual information.
She offers a few general tips for parents regarding video games:
– Do your homework. Research new games online to find out as much as you can about content.
– Don’t trust the marketers. Many games that are marketed to kids are completely inappropriate for them.
– Talk to your kids about the games they are playing.
– Regardless of what games they are playing, set up game systems in family living spaces.
Commentary: While I disagree with some of what she says, she makes some valid points. Young kids should not be playing Call of Duty: Black Ops or any other "M" rated games. Parents should pay attention to what their kids are playing. They should also enable parental controls – most console systems have them.
Krcmar researches video games and violence, and teaches a class called "Video Games: Research and Theory." You can learn more about her by visiting www.wfu.edu.