Virtual Games

Influences and Recommendations

From time immemorial man has utilized games for varied purposes such as relaxation and enjoyment, for creative development and imaginative thought, and for social development.  The virtual world, too, offers many choices of games, ranging from network games containing multiplayer games, to individual games of all kinds.  The benefits of the voluminous and varied games on the Web are many: improved thinking ability, eye-hand coordination, English comprehension, and a fun outlet for escape and enjoyment.  However, with these benefits come many risks.  Virtual world games can lead to detachment from one’s environment, to exposure to inappropriate and even highly violent content games, to addiction, to a blurring of the lines between the virtual and real worlds, to social and health problems, and to harmful and dangerous contact with strangers.  

Research indicates that the effects of video games on the brain are and stronger than those of watching movies.  A comparison of the influence of violence in a virtual game to that of in a movie demonstrates that the active participation in a game leaves a stronger imprint on the individual.  A game player identifies more strongly with a character in a game than in a movie.

The prolonged sitting in front of a computer or screens is harmful to the physical development of children who need physical and outdoors or sports activity.  Long hours at a screen impair come at the expense of meetings with friends, impairing social interaction and development.  And though friends often meet to play games together, even then they are utilizing shared thinking, cooperation and personal communication - elements that do not exist even when a group “plays together” on a shared virtual world game.

Here are some practical tips to target children to play positive and constructive games:

  1. Develop awareness in children about the effects of virtual games.
  2. Take interest in the games your children play.  If inappropriate, channel the child to play more suitable games. Check that games are age-appropriate.
  3. Allow searches for games only on monitored and quality-controlled, reputable gaming websites.  Unmonitored gaming websites are designed to attract young people with inappropriate content; so review the game first with your child.
  4. Instruct children not to click on unrecognized links on game sites without parental presence.
  5. Build a “white list” of agreed upon, acceptable games sites which the child can use.
  6. Some argue that virtual world games (imaginary worlds where a player creates and develops his own character) are hinder healthy development of children by accustoming the child to unrealistic life.
  7. Set time limits to playing time, even if the game is positive.  Quick games that create strong stimuli to the brain should not be played for more than half an hour; relaxed, thinking games can be played for up to two hours.  The American Pediatrics Association (APA) claims activity exceeding two hours a day affects a child’s health and development.  This time includes all screen activity such as games, Facebook and movies. See detailed recommendations in our article about the Effects of Screen Time on Health.
  8. Prevent chats with strangers in games.
  9. Observe copyright laws and do not download pirated copyrighted games.  When downloading files be careful of viruses or harmful content such as pornography disguised under the names of popular games.
  10. Maintain a balanced schedule of active, outdoor leisure activity alongside computer/screen use.  Set certain “off” days where no virtual games are played.
  11. Make computer/screen use conditional to the completion of homework or other activities and tasks.

For more information about games visit PEGI