Iowa State University researchers have given some tips that would help ensure that the video games you buy as gifts are good for children.
Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson and Assistant Professor of Psychology Doug Gentile say that video game ratings are a good starting point for parents when shopping for games, however, they don't tell the whole story.
"Parents and researchers initially believed that what mattered most about violent games was how realistic and bloody they were. Our research now suggests that what matters most is whether you have to harm other characters to advance in the game," said Gentile.
"Increased aggression may result from practicing harming others, even if it is unrealistic or cartoonish," Gentile added.
The experts suggest that children can learn from the content presented in the video game - whether it is positive or negative.
"If they play drums in 'Beatles Rock Band,' they will get better at drums. If the kids play games where you have to harm other characters, then they become more willing to use aggressive tactics," said Gentile.
Researchers have found that non-violent "prosocial" video games can teach kids to be more cooperative and helpful to others.
There are also games that have little positive or negative content, but are simply fun.
"Most sports games, except the ones that feature violence; many simulation games; and many racing games are like this and are fine for children and adolescents," said Anderson.
"Although playing violent video games 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 added.