Childhood exposure to media violence is not a new topic in the United States, but it is an issue that’s growing in scope. With so much technology aimed at children, such as tablets, gaming platforms and phones, running into violence online is an almost inescapable part of growing up nowadays. However, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that adults, not kids should have the final say in what kids are viewing, and thus have released a newly updated and refined policy statement regarding children and screen violence. Throughout the updated policy statement, the AAP uses the term “virtual violence” to discuss all forms of violence that are not experienced physically, for example, first-person shooter games. The policy, aimed at all adults, including pediatricians, parents, industry, and policy makers, makes concrete recommendations about how adults can (and should) limit the amount of virtual violence young children are exposed to. The AAP makes many recommendations to adults in their policy, including noting that pediatricians should consider making children’s “media diets” a key part of well-child examinations in order to help parents make smarter media choices for their children. They also note that policy makers should promote legislation that prohibits easy access to violent media for minors. Keep reading to see the key takeaways for parents from this new AAP statement.

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As for parents, the AAP policy offers up some helpful advice, as follows:

  • In order to be mindful about what their children are doing, parents should co-watch and co-play with their kids. For example, watch the movies your child will be watching and play those video games too. This is the only way parents will be able to fully understand what their kids are experiencing.
  • Be aware that cartoon violence can seem very real to kids who cannot always distinguish fantasy from violence.
  • First-person shooter games have been deemed inappropriate for any children by the AAP.
  • Look for shows, movies and games for children where violence is not the central theme. For example, avoid media that glamorizes weapons or that encourages the normalization of violence as an acceptable means of resolving conflict. Look for movies that showcase childhood in a normal, lighthearted way. Also avoid violence shown in a comical, amusing or sexual context.
  • Avoid video games that reward children who kill or hunt humans or other living targets as it may teach children to associate success with their ability to cause pain and suffering to others.

To learn more about this new policy and see more tips for law-makers, health care providers and parents, visit the AAP online.

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+ AAP Virtual Violence Policy Statement

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