Question: What is your opinion of Wii, Xbox, Play-Station and other types of video games?
They’ve been claiming a big portion of our son’s time over the past few months, and I’m getting uneasy about it.
Answer: Depending on the particular games in question, you may have a valid cause for concern.
After poring over 41 studies conducted over four decades, two University of Michigan researchers concluded in 2007 that violent media, including television, film and video games, pose a significant public-health threat.
In a separate study that year, a father-son research team from Iowa State University and the State University of New York at Buffalo found that elementary-school students who played violent video games were 263 per cent more likely to act aggressively as rated by peers and teachers than those who played only nonviolent games.
Furthermore, some video games add unhealthy sexual themes and profanity to the mix, not to mention that the American Medical Association estimates that one in 10 video gamers is addicted.
Of course, not all video games are problematic.
Certain sports games, for instance, can be loads of fun.
Some can even be educational.
In Phoenix, two surgeons at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center found that resident physicians’ surgical skills improved markedly after playing Wii’s motion-controlled games an hour before conducting a virtual surgery.
Even so, I’d advise you to put clear limits on the amount of time your son will be allowed to spend with video games or the Internet so that he won’t become obsessed with them.
Insist that he avoid the troublesome ones altogether.
With realistic guidelines, I think it’s possible to keep this kind of activity under control rather than letting it control your son and your family.
Question: You place great emphasis on instilling respect during the developmental years.
Why is that so important?
Do you just want adults to feel powerful and in control of these little people?
Answer: Certainly not.
Respect is important for several very specific reasons.
First, the child’s relationship with his parents provides the basis for his attitude toward every other form of authority he will encounter.
It becomes the cornerstone for his later outlook on school officials, law-enforcement officers, future employers and the people with whom he will eventually live and work.
Teachers, for example, can tell very quickly when a boy or girl has been allowed to be defiant at home — because those attitudes are brought straight into the classroom.
Again, relationships at home are the first and most important social encounters a youngster will have, and the problems experienced there often carry over into adult life.
Second, if you want your child to accept your values when she reaches her teen years, then you must be worthy of her respect during her younger days.
When a child can successfully defy your authority during her first 15 years, laughing in your face and stubbornly flouting your leadership, she develops a natural contempt for everything you stand for.
“Stupid old Mom and Dad!” she thinks. “I’ve got them wound around my little finger. Sure they love me, but I really think they’re afraid of me.”
A child may not utter these words, but he feels them each time he wins the confrontations with his mom or dad.
Third, and related to the second, respect is critical to the transmission of faith from one generation to the next.
The child who disdains his mother and father is less likely to emulate them on the things that matter most.
Because young children typically identify their parents — and especially their fathers — with God.
Therefore, if Mom and Dad are not worthy of respect, then neither are their morals, their country, or even their most deeply held convictions.
James Dobson is founder and chairman emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www. focusonthefamily.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide and Bringing Up Boys, both published by Tyndale House.