How can I talk to my kid about the violence in his video games without sounding like a clueless grown-up whom he'll just tune out?

From the outside looking in, it can seem that video game violence is simply gratuitous. But even violent video games can have some redeeming qualities. They can help kids develop skills in communication, team building, problem solving, logic, and reasoning. Many violent video games also set up complex ethical situations that require players to weigh various dynamics to proceed and succeed. Recognizing this and accepting that your kid's relationship to the game is meaningful for him is a solid foundation. Here are some ways to start the conversation about the violence in your kid's games.

Tap into feelings. Talk to your teen about the types of violence in the game, the role the violence plays, and how he feels when he watches it and has to perform a violent act. Getting him to recognize his emotions will help him understand his attraction to the game and even how the game manipulates his feelings -- and hopefully it will help him choose quality, age-appropriate titles on his own.

Accept that he has a "type." Once your kid has developed a taste for a certain game or a specific type of game (such as a first-person shooter), it may be hard to completely restrict it. It may not be your favorite, but you can search for games in the same genre that have less violence.

Acknowledge his skills. For some kids, being an ace at violent games is kind of a badge of honor among his peers. Help him find other things that he can excel at too.

Recognize he's part of a community. Many video games have active, involved online communities -- or fans in the real world -- and kids enjoy belonging to these groups. Lots of age-appropriate games have strong online communities; get him to try Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Portal, and Team Fortress 2.

Play games as a family. The more age-appropriate, family-friendly games you can get him into, the better. 

Ask Our Experts
Was this answer helpful?
Sign in or sign up to share your thoughts

Comments

Kid, 11 years old

To any parents struggling with this dilemma, it is best to play games with your kids and ask them what they think this games age rating would be, or you can do the same but just watch him. A majority of parents do not actually think about this, and just judge games by their age rating. So use common sense media and actually talk about the games your kids play! To speak about violence do NOT go all ¨This game is dishonouring the name of god!¨ baloney. He doesn't care, so calm down it´s a game. Ask about your child's POV and then give him yours. Games are entertainment, not the physical manifestation of the devil. When speaking to your kid, tell him what you think about the violence and ask his/her opinion on this. See your child's boundaries, and take a look at your boundaries. An example would be that your child wants to play games with a 16 age rating, but you don´t want to go past 12, then find games that are 14. As a parent you should make your child happy, but make sure he isn't exposed to things such as sex.
Teen, 17 years old written by ProjectAlpha22

I honestly think the best comparison I have ever heard to explain how little has changed in regards to violence in Media is the Robo-Cop franchise. A movie a lot of the current paternal generation has seen, this movie contains a scene with Attempted Rape, the destruction of male genitalia via gun-fire, countless brutal murders, and many other questionable scenes. The argument normally given by adults is that "you control the action" but there is way more to the interactive medium portrayal. The game plays by a different set of rules, distinguishing itself far enough from reality at most points that any child over the age of 10, or any child with the ability to tell fictional events from true events will be completely unharmed. The fact of the matter is the generation we belong isn't more violent, it is more that due to the spread of communication people are able to see that overall violence. I wholeheartedly believe that if in 1980 that the internet was as mainstream and viable as it is in 2017, this exact same conversation would be had about your generation. There has never been a confirmable link between Video Games and Violence despite popular belief. Many studies, such as the commonly cited paper published by a group from The Ohio State University have had questionable scenario choices that are easily against scientific method. Choosing a group of children from another country, ranging between Elementary and High School level, and testing them against a computer designed to shock the subject at a random value after only a half hour of playing either a violent or non-violent video game once a day several times is absolutely rubbish. The point of the matter is that unless you think there is a mental illness inhibiting your child from being able to distinguish fact from fiction, there is no reason to have this conversation. As someone who commonly played games like Halo, Mortal Kombat, and Assassin's Creed starting around the age of 10, I honestly don't feel as I have as much aggression as my peers most times. I should mention I also participate in STEM, meaning I have taken in High School multiple College-Level courses in Engineering such as Principles of Engineering and Digital Design. I also should note that many, many of my fellow STEM classmates played similar games around the same time. I would say that if you are truly worried about violent games, but don't want to insult the intelligence of your teen, games like Twilight Princess, Fire Emblem, Persona, and a personal favorite, Ace Attorney. Don't try to force these games on them, but perhaps ask them if they would be interesting in trying a game from one of the series. Go as far as to offer to buy them 1 or 2 games if they say yes, as trying to force them to buy these games they are skeptical about with their own money will make them hate the game and stay away from similar experiences. Assassin's Creed is also a really, really good compromise. These games take place in historical settings, and have the assassins take place in events such as the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire, the Italian Renaissance, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Crusades, and many more eras with a serious emphasis put on keeping as much historical accuracy while still trying to keep the game fun. Lastly, if your child prefers to play games alone, DO NOT FORCE HIM TO PLAY WITH THE FAMILY. I speak from experience that it will anger, frustrate, and sadden the adolescent that he has to play under supervision, making him feel limited and like he has no control. Also know that games are inherently violent, as is every medium, and the reason teens like me may not want to share that with you is we respect you enough to hide that we enjoy violent content. Playing Assassin's Creed in front of your mother is like watching John Wick with your mother. You may like the movie, but while you are able to enjoy and understand the movie for what it is, it isn't something you should all watch on a family movie night most likely. Hopefully this gives a bit of insight, and thank you for reading if you read my giant wall of text to completion!
Teen, 13 years old written by Malkie11

I personally dont like it when grown ups that dont play video games start to talk about them. Instead play them with your kid and learn about waht he or she is playing.
Teen, 16 years old written by NewAgePerspective

just play the games, devote two hours of your life everyday to get better at them. when your child see's your skill in the game, he's more respectful towards your opinion of it. Don't use minecraft, it's a death trap on all aspects, you do want to see your child's face in the future don't you?
Teen, 13 years old written by Nathan steele

Really?? TF2 is age appropriate?? It's rated M for violence and gore. I play it , and wouldn't say it appropriate for anyone under 13, and that's really iffy.
Teen, 13 years old written by karamojo

Many video games are not good for the mind. They put in horrific images that cannot be taken out. Whatever you put in your mind stays there forever. If you really want to help your children, don't buy those types of games in the first place.
Teen, 13 years old written by Leamur1234

Teens can tune out any grownup even when they are trying to be serious. I recommend talking to him about the game and help him understand that violent games are not ok to act out in real life.
Kid, 12 years old

I personally would say talking to your child about video games is awkward but as an alternative watch your kid play the game or from time to time you could even play with them.
Teen, 16 years old written by Silverfall

I personally don't listen to anyone trying to tell me about something if they don't have any idea what they're talking about. Make sure you research the topic and use multiple sources as to not be subject to one author's personal bias toward the subject.
Teen, 15 years old written by Atticus_Sauls

first you should have a good sense of what the game you are talking to them about is about. if you don't know the story line and the character names you will sound like you are clueless and they will tune you out. you should also have a sense of how characters are killed( if they are gored and blood is everywhere vs. you shoot them and they fall down). you should know what words like noob, fps, and other basic gaming words mean so when they use them you can respond confidently. also researching the games they play and watching other people play them before confronting your child is also a good idea. a good way to start a conversation about the game is to ask if you can play the game with them and ask questions as you play( if you listen to the online chat and point out people cursing you will sound like you care and 9 out of 10 times your child doesn't so do not point that out or try and stop it) if you think that the game is to violent don't just take it away, you will make them mad and they will regret letting you play, plus you bought them the game in the first place and by taking it back you will both lose money and look clueless to your kid. if anything in this comment sounded childish or wrong remember if you followed these things as a 15 year old boy i would not tune you out
Teen, 15 years old written by Mavrah333

OK, let's think about this. You never said in your review of the orange box that TF2 was any better for kids than the half life games. You have rated Portal separately. Half Life 2 Episode 2, The Orange Box and TF2 are all 15's in the UK, and all Ms in the US. So, TF2 is kid friendly, and Half Life 2, E1 (and presumably E2) aren't? TF2 is stylised and cartoony, but the community revolves around over priced hats, my least favourite part of TF2.