Dear Dr. Mark,

I recently discussed society's view on gaming with a friend, and both of us being relatively young (around 20), we got to talking about how our parents might see our hobbies. My friend suggested that it was quite possible that our parents viewed even something as unhealthy as getting drunk as a better alternative to sitting in front of a computer for extended periods of time. I couldn't help but agree with him.

Furthermore, it got me thinking of how society sees gaming. With how the mass media shows gaming and gamers, it mostly seems to come out negatively.

Any thoughts on why gaming is often put in such a negative light in our society?

I agree with you that the public perception of gaming is largely negative. Why should this be? It's easy to blame the mass media, but they largely print stories they think people want to read. Some balance is getting into the press as it becomes clear that videogamers like to read about their hobby, are often intelligent and thoughtful, and aren't all victims of demonic possession.

Well, maybe some of them are.

Some gamers obviously couldn't care less what society thinks of them and their hobby, but it is certainly bracing to imagine that your parents view getting drunk as healthier than gaming, especially when you look at all the damage done by drunk people. You've put your finger on a very important source of negativity: parents and a serious generation gap when it comes to gaming.

In my work as a psychologist, I hear from many parents about videogaming and their impressions are almost uniformly sour. The simple advice is to set limits on kids' use if you don't like it, but parents are finding this increasingly difficult. Young kids hear about videogaming from friends or older siblings, so parents are treated to a constant chorus of nagging about it. Those who try to regulate it are taking on yet another parental policing task. If your youngster is going to play, what games or devices are best, and how do you find time in a very busy life to figure this out when you can't even program your VCR, or don't even know VCRs are obsolete?

Many parents end up capitulating because the fight is tiring and gaming can be much more effective for occupying kids than TV. When your kids are absorbed in play, you don't have to entertain them and can actually get other things done, like cooking, cleaning, paying the bills, and actually talking to your spouse. As a colleague pointed out, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of total screen time per day. My experience is that many families with young children have a very hard time adhering to this guideline, and as children reach middle and high school, it becomes even more difficult.

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