Do Video Game Ratings Labels Work?


Yes, according to Iowa State University marketing professor Russell Laczniak.

In an excellent article posted by writer Angie Hunt, Laczniak states, “Parents must actually mediate kids purchase and play of video games, which requires effort and time.”

Professor Laczniak and his associates conducted the research by surveying 220 families online. The survey had questions for parents as well as children. Interestingly, the research respondents were primarily dyads of mothers and sons. He focused on children in the age range of 8-12 as that seemed to be a heightened time of cognitive change and growing influence of peers.

It is essential that parents must actually intervene and influence both the purchase of video games, but also the time that their child spends on video games. So, parents need to set clear limits and implement them consistently in order to have a positive impact.

So, what is this positive impact-simply reducing the number of hours playing video game? According to Laczniak and colleagues, the impact is so much more.  The article suggests that when video game use is limited in this age group, the children are less likely to demonstrate acting out behaviors. This comes as no surprise to most of us who have worked in education for a while, but is important to have yet more data that leads to this conclusion.

Previous research notes, that a particular parenting style also has the most impact on successful implementing the limits- parents who are warm and restrictive as opposed to “anxious” tend to have the best results. I think there is a body of evidence that shows that this is important in any parental interaction, not simply in the limitation of video game watching. Please also check out the science tab of Wide Open Research for further information on being a digitally wise parent or educator.

This is great research and all parents and educators would want to read the article. Teachers of Psychology, Child Development, Parenting, Marketing for sure could use this for a productive discussion. Teachers of an Intro to Law, or Media Studies course could use this to discuss the larger legal and cultural role that video games play in our society.

A few takeaways for teachers and administrators to share with parents:

  1. Read the labels on video games and follow their guidance.
  2. Calmly and firmly tell your child that you will not buy or let them play video games that are “too old” for them. Explain that you are trying to help them become the best students and people possible and this is going to help. Do not have an extended debate.
  3. Provide an alternative activity for the child.
  4. Network with other parents and educators who hold similar values. Common Sense Media is a great resource. 

Question for Discussion

  1. What is your experience in playing violent video games?
  2. Why do they hold such a fascination in our culture?
  3. Are these games popular throughout the world? Where?Who tends to play these games the most?
  4. What are some limitations of this research?
  5. How could professor Laczniak and his colleagues conduct follow up research?
  6. What do you think of the suggestions noted in the article regarding other ways companies could show a game’s rating? What other ways can you think of to help parents make more informed choices regarding video game use?
  7. Perhaps the creative teachers would like to help their students develop Public Service Announcements, to help parents use this research?
  8. What else does this inspire you to “learn, dream, do?”

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