IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Department of Psychology
Ames, IA 50011-3180
Phone: (515) 294-3118
FAX: (515) 294-6424
June 26, 2006
Video Game Suggestions from Dr. Craig A.
When considering whether to allow your child to play a particular
video game, you must consider more than the age-based rating. The
is not always an accurate indicator of the content. Some games rated by
the video game industry as appropriate for “Everyone” contain
harmful content. Many “Teen” games are very violent. Although playing a
violent video game on an occasional basis is unlikely to produce any
harmful consequences, repeated exposure to violent entertainment media
any type is an important risk factor for later aggressiveness. Parents
to carefully examine the content of video games before allowing their
to use them.
There are thousands of video games available that are both fun and
educational. My own children have grown up with video games, but my
and I have been very careful in screening all of their games, and in
the amount of time our children spend on them. Below are sources of
that we’ve found useful. But please be sure to check the content of every
game allowed into your child’s life, because even some educational
games have content that you might find objectionable, particularly
At the Broderbund web site (http://www.broderbund.com/)
you can find several good educational video games for children of
various ages, such as the following titles and series by The
Learning Company (* indicates that my children have used these
Arthur, Carmen Sandiego*, ClueFinders*,
Dr. Seuss Learn To Speak, Little Bear
Mavis Beacon*, Oregon Trail*, PBS Kids,
Reader Rabbit, The Princeton Review*, Zoombinis
However, some games at this web site contain violent themes even though
they carry an “Everyone” rating. The video game rating is not always an
accurate indicator of the content, as has been demonstrated by several
recent studies. As always, parents need to carefully examine the
of video games before allowing their children to use them. A couple of
“descriptions” to watch out for are “Action” and “Comic mischief.” Most
“Action” games contain at least some violence. “Comic mischief” is
used by the industry to describe violent actions performed by
An excellent series of video games that my children have used is the
JumpStart series, which can be found at: http://www.jumpstart.com/. JumpStart
games often can be found at general retail outlets.
Edmark is another company with a history of making good
educational games. Their products can be found at:
http://www.riverdeep.net/edmark/. We have used Millie’s Math
House and Sammy’s Science House when our children were
young. There are many additional games at this
web site that look very good.
A source of inexpensive, good, educational games is a company called
Ohio Distinctive Software (http://www.ohio-distinctive.com/).
Our children have enjoyed and learned from many of their games.
Here are some web sites with additional information about entertainment
media and parenting issues:
I have posted my scientific articles on aggression and violence on my
web site. The easiest way to get to my recent research is to go to my
home page (http://www.craiganderson.org/wp-content/uploads/caa/index.html),
then click on the "Recent Publications" link. You can then download my
articles that have published since 1995.
In response to numerous requests, I've developed the following
guidelines to examining the content of a video game to see whether
repeated exposure might create some harmful aggression-related effects.
Note that the same type of guidelines also are useful for creating
healthier TV and movie
How can you tell if a video game is
1. Play the game, or have someone else demonstrate it for you.
2. Ask yourself the following 6 questions:
* Does the game involve some characters trying to harm others?
* Does this happen frequently, more than once or twice in 30 minutes?
* Is the harm rewarded in any way?
* Is the harm portrayed as humorous?
* Are nonviolent solutions absent or less "fun" than the violent ones?
* Are realistic consequences of violence absent from the game?
3. If two or more answers are "yes," think very carefully about the
lessons being taught before allowing your child access to the game.
What else can you do?
*Be a wise consumer:
here to return to Craig A. Anderson's home page.
-Buy video games that are helpful to your children
-Don't buy potentially harmful products
*Be a wise parent/grandparent:
-Know what your children are playing
-Don't allow access to violent video games
-Restrict time spent on video games
-Explain to your children why such games are harmful
-Teach nonviolent problem solving at every opportunity
*Be an involved citizen/consumer
-If you learn that a retailer is selling violent games to children,
complain to the owner/manager.
-If you learn that a retailer is doing a good job of screening sales or
rentals of violent material to children, thank the owner/manager and
support the business, perhaps by purchasing nonviolent educational
-Help educate others in your community (parents, youth, public
*Let your public officials know that you are concerned.
I hope you find these suggestions useful. Parenting isn't easy, but it
is often fun and always important.
Craig A. Anderson