Video Games: Research, Ratings, Recommendations
Video games have remained popular since their introduction in the United States in the 1970s. A trend toward increased violence and realism in electronic games in the 1980s and 1990s has prompted concern from parents and educators. This Digest reviews research on the demographics and effects of video game playing, discusses game rating systems, and offers recommendations for parents. For the purpose of this Digest, video games, or electronic games, include computer games, games on console systems, games in arcades, "edutainment" games, and virtual reality games.
Time Spent Playing Electronic Games
Buchman and Funk (1996) investigated the video game-playing habits of 900 children in grades 4 through 8. According to children's reports, their game playing at home steadily decreased from grades 4 through 8. For example, about 90% of fourth-graders reported playing 1 or more hours weekly compared to 75% of eighth-graders. For arcades, the trend was reversed. Some weekly arcade playing was reported by 50% of fourth-graders and 75% of eighth-graders. Consistent with earlier research, boys reported playing more video games per week than girls.
Two studies sought to determine 11- to 16-year-olds' game-playing habits. In a study by Fisher (1995), 25% of adolescents said they visited arcades at least once a week, and 18% at least three times per week. In a similar study by Phillips et al. (1995), 77% of children reported sometimes playing video games at home, and 24% reported playing every day. More than 60% of children reported that they played longer than they intended to play.
Gender Similarities and Differences
Girls' and boys' game-playing habits have been addressed by many studies, which have consistently found that boys play video games more than girls (Buchman & Funk, 1996).
To assess girls' and boys' game preferences, Funk and Buchman classified games into six content categories: (1) General Entertainment, (2) Educational, (3) Fantasy Violence, (4) Human Violence, (5) Nonviolent Sports, and (6) Sports Violence. Funk and Buchman (1994) found that sixth-grade girls and boys did not differ in the proportion of violent games they chose as favorites, but that boys were more likely than girls to choose sports violence games as favorites, and girls were more likely than boys to chose fantasy violence games as favorites. Buchman and Funk (1996) found that girls were more likely than boys to list educational games as favorites, but that for both boys and girls, there was a decreasing preference for educational games from fourth through eighth grade. Violent games remained consistently popular across grades for both boys and girls.
Funk and Buchman (1996a) studied fourth- and fifth-graders' responses to gender-related statements about video games. Most children agreed that "it's OK" for boys and girls to play video games. Among fifth-graders, boys were more likely than girls to agree that "it's OK" for boys to play video games "a lot," and that popular boys play video games. More girls than boys thought it possible for a girl to be popular and play a lot of video games. The researchers believe that girls perceived themselves to have peer approval for moderate amounts of game playing, suggesting that the socialization of boys and girls is becoming more similar.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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