Video Games (Family Safety)
Video games have been around for many years, and have been a source of entertainment since Pong. Video games are different from online games in that they are usually played on a game console such as a Playstation, Wii, or XBox. Video games can also be played on the computer, but if they are not connected to the Internet, or interacting with other live players, they are not considered online games.
Gaming can be fun and entertaining, and with some of the newer game consoles, they can even be considered a form of exercise. Playing games can bring a family together, and can provide an outlet for stress and provide a relaxing form of entertainment. Speaking about video games, the Internet, television and other media, Elder Ballard once said: "Don’t misunderstand me. These activities are not wrong in and of themselves (unless, of course, you are watching salacious programs or seeking out pornographic images on the Internet). Games, sports, recreational activities, and even television can be relaxing and rejuvenating, especially in times when you are under stress or heavily scheduled."
The most popular gaming systems today have wireless networking capability, meaning that they can connect to the Internet and interact with anyone else in the world who has the same game system and an Internet connection. Some even allow you to surf the Internet and include a built-in web browser to do so. It is important to understand this, though, because unless you have a gateway filter installed, this provides unfiltered Internet access from the one device that is most likely used primarily by the children in the home. To make matters worse, the tools that are used to monitor Internet access, chat logs, websites visited, and so forth are not yet available on these machines. This means that while you may vigilantly protect your children as they access the Internet from the computers in your home, you may have inadvertently opened up a direct line to all of the content on the Internet by simply purchasing a game console. Most of these consoles have the ability to lock down the Internet access, or at the very least, to turn off the browser so that one cannot use the machine to surf the Internet. This has no impact on the games or your children’s ability to play online games; it simply turns off the ability to freely surf the Internet via the game box.
Another danger of game consoles that are connected to the Internet is the fact that anyone can join in and participate in the game. Internet predators will seek out their victims where ever the children are - this means that they will use game consoles to initiate relationships with children. They make plans to meet back in the game at certain times of the day and strategize together regarding how to play the game. Predators are very patient; sometimes they build relationships over months before trying to arrange an in-person meeting. By then, the children feel they know this person – they have played with them ,talked with them, learned about them. They believe they aren’t meeting a stranger; they are going to meet one of their gaming friends, and maybe even in a very public place.
Finally, there is the danger of simply wasting time. Games can be addicting, and how we choose to use our time is critical. Elder Bednar said the following: "If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience."
Advice from Church leaders
- Elder M. Russell Ballard: "We need to limit the amount of time our children watch TV or play video games or use the Internet each day."
- Elder M. Russell Ballard: "One of the ways Satan lessens your effectiveness and weakens your spiritual strength is by encouraging you to spend large blocks of your time doing things that matter very little. I speak of such things as sitting for hours on end watching television or videos, playing video games night in and night out, surfing the Internet, or devoting huge blocks of time to sports, games, or other recreational activities."
- Elder David A. Bednar: "a simulation or model can lead to spiritual impairment and danger if the fidelity is high and the purposes are bad—such as experimenting with actions contrary to God’s commandments or enticing us to think or do things we would not otherwise think or do 'because it is only a game.'"
Tips & suggestions
- Turn off the Internet access on your gaming systems.
- Turn on the parental controls, so this cannot be turned back on without your knowledge.
- If you want your children to be able to play with friends online, then turn off the Internet browsing capability. Most gaming consoles allow you to turn off browsing but leave on gaming
- Know who your children are playing with.
- Talk to them about their online friends.
- Use the ESRB rating feature on your filter and game console.
- Limit game playing time.
- Beware of violence in video games. Children learn aggressive behavior from watching others.
- Charles D. Knutson and Kyle K. Oswald, Just a Game?, Aug 2009, 46-51