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Protecting teens from overexposure to violent video games, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter

American homes are increasingly besieged by menacing zombies, invading aliens, and threatening criminals. The fact that these beings exist only on-screen—as characters in popular video games—may be small comfort to parents concerned about limiting their children’s exposure to violence. The October issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter reports that worries about video game violence are probably overblown, but also offers advice on how parents can minimize any potential harm.

As a first step, check a video game’s Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating to better understand what type of content the game has. It may also help to place video consoles and computers in common areas of the home, such as the kitchen or living room, rather than in children’s bedrooms. Finally, set limits on the amount of time youths play these games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends two hours or less of total screen time per day—a limit that includes television and computers as well as video games.

Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, points out that video games share much in common with other pursuits that are enjoyable and rewarding, but that can become hazardous in certain contexts. Parents can best protect their children by remaining engaged with them and providing limits and guidance as necessary.

Read the full-length article: "Violent video games and young people"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter

  • References for "Violent video games and young people"
  • References for "Cognitive enhancement therapy for schizophrenia"
  • References for "Managing dental phobia"
  • References for "Second step treatments for adolescent depression"
  • Violent video games and young people
  • Cognitive enhancement therapy for schizophrenia
  • Managing dental phobia
  • Second-step treatments for adolescent depression
  • In Brief: Advice about living with bipolar disorder
  • The Quirky Brain: Why eating slowly helps make people feel full
  • Ask the doctor: Do antidepressants cause cataracts?

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.