Selective screen time for kids: Edu-Toys, Videos and Software Resources

Over two hundred studies have been published which examine the effects of violence in entertainment media and which at least partially focus on violence in video games in particular. Some psychological studies have shown a correlation between children playing violent video games and suffering psychological effects, though the vast majority stop short of claiming behavioral causation. Critics to these argue that many of the studies involved fail to use standardized and reliable measures of aggression, and many selectively discuss findings that support their hypothesized link between video games and aggression, and fail to discuss findings that disconfirm this link.[The American Psychological Association summarizes the issue as “Psychological research confirms that violent video games can increase children’s aggression, but that parents moderate the negative effects.” Read more at and here

How TV Affects Your Child while admitting there may be advantages for the kid who watches TV, too much television can be detrimental:

  • Research has shown that children who consistently spend more than 4 hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight.
  • Kids who view violent events, such as a kidnapping or murder, are also more likely to believe that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them.
  • Research also indicates that TV consistently reinforces gender-role and racial stereotypes.

If you are worried about the issue, here’s a link to the Smart Guide to Kids’ TV and another guide on Talking With kids About the News

I thought relevant to the topic


of dysfunctional behavior in kids, I’d mention again the book Toxic Childhood by Sue Palmer (Japanese version: Kodomo wa Naze Monsutaa ni Naru no ka (Why are our children becoming monsters?) which I’d touched upon in an earlier post.

The book focuses on 10 areas which affect behavior of children adversely: epidemic of junk food, lack of sleep, lack of outdoor play and poor parent-child communication as well as marketing that targets children. Sue Palmer’s point of the book is that children “still need the same things they always needed. The vital element is something “real”–real food, real play, first-hand–not screen-based–experiences of the world, real communication with real people. Also adequate sleep is a must. Among her suggestions to “detoxify” children’s lifestyle habits, include, “Don’t let children have TVs, computers or electronic equipment in their bedrooms”.

According to Palmer, the most successful parenting is “authoritative”, which means balancing warmth and firmness–giving children plenty of time and loving attention, while at the same time being firm enough to provide stability and safety.”

Someone in our e-community made the point that screen based experiences particularly of repeated viewing of violent scenes, have the negative effect of desensitizing children. I think that there is potential violence to be brewed in a kid an issue when kids already isolated enough from real life take what they watch on screens (whether TV or gaming) as simulators of real life.

To examine the merits and demerits of kids’ use of personal computers, read the article Are Kids Helped or Harmed by Computers?

Below are a few sources of selective use screen time for kids:Thousands of educational videos or CD ROMs or DVD titles at


You can watch science experiments and demonstrations on
YouTube, but also from this site: to ensure the children aren’t exposed to anything that might show up along the edge of the screen.’


Online store for toys, books and videos here

How to choose software for children

Here are some helpful websites for screening games, software and movies:

100 Videogames (BFI Screen Guides) by James Newman & Iain Simons. Simons the co-author says in a press interview that he wrote the book to help parents who would not know where to go to begin to find out what videogames had to offer. The authors also stress that they were not out to compile a best-of-the list so much as to comment on titles that reveal something about the nature of videogames as a form, whether structurally as in the case of Super Mario Brothers, aesthetically as in the case of Killer 7. On violence issues, Simons says “I suspect violence and just blowing things up is always going to be a key part of video games –as it is in cinema, and it is a whole bunch of our culture.” People, males in particular, plainly enjoy “the pleasure of seeing a block of flats demolished, the kind of basic pleasure of smashing stuff up”, he said. “Video games, coming from the very specifically male place that they did, are obviously going to have more of that.” He concluded that violence is fine in an entertainment medium, as long as that’s not all there is to it–and video games have much more than that to offer. For eg. he reviews “Shadow of the Colossus as being “particularly kind of moving because you’re doing these things (killing giant beasts), and it is gradually revealed to you that maybe you’re not doing the right thing,” he said. “Maybe what you’re doing is evil. And the right way that is slowly unveiled over the game is just fantastic. But if weren’t doing that (yourself, as opposed to passively watching the action, then that would have no purchase. It ‘s important that it is you doing it. We have to take responsibility for the things that we do.” The game can actually induce feelings of guilt in its players, Simons said. — excerpt from Polymorphous Pixels, Daily Yomiuri, Friday, Dec 14, 2007 features jargon-free reviews to help non-geeky parents figure out which video games are safe and whether the games contain violence, strong language, etc gives us educational software reviews

Movie Mom (Nell Minnow is the movie reviewer…read about Movie Mom here) Yahoo also has a Movie Mom site is another yahoo site that reviews movies for kids and for the family.

The position on the connection between kids’ violent behavior and gaming and/or TV programming is not uncontroversial, see the articles below:

Researcher Finds Scant Evidence Linking Violent Games With Aggressive Behavior


Any scientific link between violent video games and violent behavior remains tenuous.
At least, that’s the conclusion of a Ph.D faculty member at Texas A&M International University’s Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice. The researcher, Christopher Ferguson forwarded GamePolitics information about a study he recently completed. In an e-mail, Ferguson wrote:

I conducted a meta-analysis of studies associating violent video game exposure with aggressive behaviors. A meta-analysis involves collecting existing studies in the literature, and obtaining an over all effect size (i.e. degree of relationship) for all of the studies examined. This allows us to get a sense, not just for individual research projects, but rather for the overall result from combined studies in a field.
In the current publication, studies that examined violent video game effects on aggressive behavior were analyzed. Also examined was a phenomenon called “publication bias” which means that scientific journals are more likely to publish studies that support a particular hypothesis than those that reject it.
Results from the current meta-analysis found that there were about 25 recent studies on violent video game effects, with conflicting results.
Overall results of the study found that although violent video games appear to increase people’s aggressive thoughts (which it would not be surprising that people are still thinking about what they were just playing), violent games do not appear to increase aggressive behavior.
This as true for both correlational and experimental studies. Also it was found that studies that employed less standardized measures of aggression produced higher effects than better standardized measures of aggression. In other words, better measures of aggression are associated with lower effects.
Publication bias appeared to be a significant issue for studies of aggressive behavior. Thus it was concluded that there is little evidence from the current body of literature on violent video games that playing violent video games is either causally or correlationally associated with increases in aggressive behavior.
Ferguson included a copy of his findings, from which the following quotes were lifted:

(it) appears that news outlets may promote media violence in general, and video game violence specifically as a direct cause of violent behavior.
Despite the relatively young and sparse nature of the research on violent video game effects, some researchers have claimed that the evidence is conclusive…Yet a close read of the literature reveals that many of the studies used to support this link provide only questionable or inconsistent evidence.
Part of the problem may be that video game researchers have adopted unreliable methodologies from media violence research in general… Most of the research (particularly laboratory research) employs unvalidated ad-hoc measures of “aggression”.
We regret that GP is unable to publish the entire report at this time. However, it can be purchased here ($30).

Expert Debunks Connection Between Violence and Gaming
By Susan Arendt February 19, 2007

According to a new study by a researcher at Texas A&M International University, studies that see a connection between video games and violent behavior usually suffer from shoddy research techniques. Dr. Christopher Ferguson studied the results of a number of recent studies linking violent video games to aggressive behavior with an eye not just to individual results, but also to overall trends in the studies as a whole.
Ferguson found that the connection between violence and gaming had more to do with publication bias than it did with any actual correlation. In other words, journals were more likely to publish studies that supported the hypothesis that playing violent games made a subject more prone to violent behavior. Nothing like scientific stacking the deck, eh? Ferguson sums it up nicely:

Thus it was concluded that there is little evidence from the current body of literature on violent video games that playing violent video games is either causally or correlationally associated with increases in aggressive behavior.
Expect He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named to jump on this one like a duck on a junebug, folks.


Video games are harmful to your brains from Japan Today

Game-nou-no-kyofu (Terror of game-brain)
By Akio Mori

Review by Takanori Kobayashi

Since the major entertainment company Nintendo introduced the video game machine Family Computer in 1984, the way Japanese kids play has changed completely. Rather than gathering in parks to play baseball or other games until dark, they are inclined to spend much more time nowadays playing video games in their own rooms.

The more popular the video games are, the more the game machines and software sell. Current games have such elaborate technology and are so real that they are more than just mere playthings. Some video games are designed to provide real fear, anger, tension and even love.

And they don’t come on just game machines either, but also are available to on PCs and cell phones. Every day men and women can be seen on trains, during their coffee break in their offices or waiting in line at the bank, glued to the small screens of their cell phones eagerly playing video games.

However, sociologists warn that there could be a negative effect to constant exposure to video games. Some even suspect there is a correlation between the upsurge of violent crimes by teenagers and playing video games.

Akio Mori, a doctor and professor at Nihon University, who specializes in cranial nerve science, warns that spending too much time playing many video games has harmful effects on the human brain. He presents his conclusions based on his research on “kireru” (insuppressible anger) in his book, “Game-nou-no-kyofu” (Terror of game-brain), published by NHK Books.

According to Mori’s research, brain waves of people who have been habitually playing video games are very similar to those of individuals suffering from heavy dementia. Said Mori, “Playing the games makes the part of the brain controlling the optic nerve system work too hard.” He claims this has an adverse effect on a person’s rationality, morality and shyness.

Certainly, video games can make some people go nuts. You just have to look at some enthusiasts playing video games on their cellular phones, mumbling to themselves heatedly even though others are around them. At game centers (penny arcades), frustrated people punch or kick game machines without regard to making a spectacle of themselves.

“In many video games, players often experience escaping from some dangerous predicament or killing something, and these are embedded in central nerves of the brain that organize memories. As a result, in the real world, when a tough situation arises, they might react with unusual behavior or feel psychological fear from their subconscious mind put there by video games,” says Mori.

Indeed, if sophisticated and vivid visual images of modern video games have a strong enough impression on adults, then what must they be doing to kids?

Video game addiction is formed in one’s childhood, writes Mori. “The nerve system of the brain is different in people who have become addicted to video games since their childhood. Those who start playing the games as adults can stop playing if they have a strong will to do so. However, people who have been playing since their childhood can’t stop. It’s like any other kind of addiction and I am really concerned for them.”

Not a few people, who were born after 1983, must have spent many hours in their childhood since the video game boom was triggered by Family Computer. It’s interesting to speculate that the number of violent crimes committed by teenagers and others in their early 20s might be because that video generation is now coming of age.

While not denying that current video games are really enjoyable, Mori
laments that if more kids become addicts, in the long run, society as a
whole will become morally bankrupt. Mori suggests children should play outside, get familiar with nature and use their five senses fully. He even suggests that one day there might have to be an age limit to play video games.

September 14, 2002

Game-nou-no-kyofu (Terror of game-brain) by Akio Mori
Published by NHK Books
660 yen+tax


1 thought on “Selective screen time for kids: Edu-Toys, Videos and Software Resources”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s