Iowa State University

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News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777



Craig Anderson, Psychology, (515) 294-3118 or

Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, (515) 294-8986 or

ISU psychologist offers parental advice on purchasing child's video games

AMES, Iowa -- The video game desires of children sometimes present dilemmas for parents, who worry about purchasing a game that may contain less than desirable content.

Craig Anderson, a Distinguished Professor of psychology at Iowa State University -- one of the world's leading experts on video game violence -- advises parents to consider more than a game's age-based rating before making a purchase.

He's researched video games and aggressive behavior since the 1980s, and (with a colleague) was the first to publish a study on video game violence in a major journal. Now, Anderson has co-authored the first study that documents how exposure to violent video games also desensitizes an individual to real-life violence.

He reports that when it comes to making video game purchases, parents should know that "E" is not always for everyone.

"The rating is not always an accurate indicator of the content. Some games rated by the video game industry as appropriate for 'Everyone' contain potentially harmful content. Many 'Teen' games are very violent," said Anderson, who joined with Iowa State Assistant Professor of Psychology Doug Gentile and graduate student Katherine Buckley to co-author a forthcoming Oxford University press book titled "Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents."

"Although playing a violent video game on an occasional basis is unlikely to produce any long-term harmful consequences, repeated exposure to violent entertainment media of any type is an important risk factor for later aggressiveness. Parents need to carefully examine the content of video games before allowing their children to use them."

Anderson offers the following advice to parents before making a video game purchase for their child:

  • Play the game, or have someone else demonstrate it for you.
  • Ask yourself the following six questions:
  1. Does the game involve some characters trying to harm others?
  2. Does this happen frequently, more than once or twice in 30 minutes?
  3. Is the harm rewarded in any way?
  4. Is the harm portrayed as humorous?
  5. Are non-violent solutions absent or less "fun" than the violent ones?
  6. Are realistic consequences of violence absent from the game?

"If two or more answers are 'yes,' think very carefully about the lessons being taught before allowing your child access to the game," said Anderson.

He also believes parents need to follow the following general rules in supervising their children's video game usage:

  • Be a wise consumer.

"Buy video games that are helpful to your children. Don't buy potentially harmful products," he said.

  • Be a wise parent.

"Know what your children are playing and don't allow access to violent video games," said Anderson. "Restrict time spent on video games. Teach non-violent problem solving at every opportunity and explain to your children why such games are harmful."

  • Be an involved citizen/consumer

"If you learn that a retailer is selling violent games to children, complain to the owner or manager. At the same time, if you learn that a retailer is doing a good job of screening sales or rentals of violent material to children, thank and support the business -- perhaps by purchasing non-violent educational video games," he said. "Help educate others in your community -- such as parents, other youths, and public officials."

  • Let your public officials know that you are concerned.

Anderson has testified about violent video games before the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. His testimony before the St. Louis County Executive Council on the effects of violent video games was used to create an ordinance that requires adult video game retailers and arcade owners to obtain parental consent prior to allowing children access to "mature" rated video games.


Craig Anderson

Craig Anderson


"Buy video games that are helpful to your children. Don't buy potentially harmful products."

Craig Anderson