Parents Blaming Video Games: Why?

Here’s why parents blame everything on video games:

There are many reasons why a parent might feel this way, including errant news reporting, mixed scientific results, misunderstanding the issue, and desperately searching for a problem’s cause.

In some cases, the parents are even right to blame video games.

It’s a complicated, mixed bag without a simple answer.

So if you want to learn all about why parents hold video games responsible for a lot of problems, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right into it!

Parents Blaming Video Games: Why? (All the Info)

Do Parents Actually Blame Everything on Video Games?

A group of preteen kids playing video games at home. Children sitting on the couch together holding gaming controllers.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

Is the original question even reasonable?

Do parents blame everything on video games?

Naturally, not all parents will blame all things on video games.

This is expressing a sentiment that it seems common enough for parents to blame issues on video games, even when it isn’t entirely justified.

So, I’ll be writing this under the assumption that at least some parents blame at least some problems on video games.

From that context, I can talk about why they might feel that way.

My goal today is not to tell you that video games are objectively good or bad.

The truth here, like most things, is far more complicated than that.

As we explore the concepts, you’ll inevitably see examples of video games causing real problems.

You will also see examples where video games are unfairly blamed for things.

I’m not here to take sides in any arguments today.

I just want to explain why the sentiment exists.

What Are Things That Parents Blame on Video Games? (5 Things)

Teenage Boy Drinking Caffeine Energy Drink Gaming At Home Using Dual Computer Screens At Night

In order to really delve into the idea, we have to first talk about ways video games receive blame.

In total, there are more than a few different issues that all get linked to video games, whether reasonable or not.

I’m going to cover the most common among those to make sure we’re all on the same page.

If you happen to know a parent who blamed video games for burning dinner, I’m not getting into that here.

I’m going to stick to mainstream issues.

#1 Violent Behavior

If you’re old enough, you can probably remember a time in the 90s when the popular opinion was that video games were the cause of increased violent crime rates.

The “kids these days” were indoctrinated by over-the-top violence in their games, and the result was desensitization to violence and the harm it causes.

These opinions were largely debunked, but you still see this idea circle back around every now and then.

So, today, you’ll still see parents blaming violent behavior on video games.

#2 Antisocial Behavior

This topic is a little more interesting.

Have you ever heard the term Otaku? 

It’s a Japanese word that has taken on international usage. 

The term refers to a “young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills.”

In other words, an Otaku is someone who struggles socially but spends a lot of time on computers.

In most cases, they play a lot of video games.

You see this phenomenon all over the world, by the way.

In fact, the Chinese government nationally limited how much time kids can spend playing video games because they were so worried about it.

Now, none of this is proof that video games actually do cause antisocial behavior.

That’s actually very hard to measure.

But, it’s quite clear that a lot of people, parents included, have arrived at this conclusion.

#3 Poor Behavior at Home

On a completely different note, if a parent is dissatisfied with the relationship they have with a child (or if they dislike the child’s average behavior), then they might be tempted to blame that situation on those pesky video games.

Once again, this is a situation that is far too complicated to reduce down to whether or not video games are causing the issues.

What is clear, though, is that plenty of parents are perfectly willing to blame video games, and you might be able to find good examples of parents restricting access to video games as a result.

#4 Problems at School

This is really the same as the example above, but it’s focused on school rather than the home.

Parents might think that kids spending too much time on games slack off on homework and studying.

They might think that video games disadvantage a kid’s mental health.

They might think any number of other things.

The common thread is that a kid’s performance or behavior at school is deemed undesirable, and video games get the blame.

#5 Health Issues

This is the issue where it’s probably easiest to see the parents’ point of view.

It’s not hard to imagine that a kid spends time on video games at the expense of time playing outside or otherwise getting exercise.

I’ll circle back to this a little later, but there are more than a few health issues that are blamed on video games.

Those include obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies, and anything else that you might link to a lack of exercise in one’s daily life or simply playing video games too much.

Why Do Parents Blame Video Games? (4 Reasons)

Blond child playing video games instead of studying sitting home

That covers the what.

Now, we can get into the why.

We could be lazy and say that parents blame video games because they don’t know better, but there are actually deeper reasons and justifications at play.

So, I’m going to take you through the most likely reasons any parent might blame video games for various issues.

#1 Correlation

Let’s return to some of the health issues I brought up earlier.

To be completely honest, if you play video games 20 hours a day, there’s probably not a lot of time left for exercise (unless your game of choice is Beat Saber or something).

And, hopefully, we all agree that at least some exercise throughout the week is a good thing.

So, it’s not hard to see why huge amounts of time spent on video games correlate with a number of health issues.

But, we also have to remember that correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

Sure, if you aren’t exercising, it can negatively impact your health.

That doesn’t mean that video games are the reason for insufficient exercise.

In some cases, it might be a different root cause that leads to an individual playing games over choosing other activities.

Like I said before, this stuff is complicated, and it frequently runs into a chicken-or-the-egg kind of comparison.

Do you exercise too little because you play video games, or do you choose to play video games because of something else in your life?

Regardless, you can understand why parents are ready to blame video games for a number of problems, and the correlations (remember, not necessarily causes) are often present.

#2 The News

I briefly touched on this before, but new outlets have suggested that video games can cause people to behave violently.

I already linked very compelling research that debunks this narrative, but that’s not what really matters for this part of the conversation.

What we need to recognize is that if a bunch of news outlets claim that video games are turning kids into serial killers (I’m exaggerating for emphasis), then at least some parents are going to take those claims at face value.

This isn’t really about the news.

That’s a debate I don’t really want to have today.

The point is that there have been reputable sources that outright blamed video games for problems, including violence, and it’s not unreasonable for parents to trust those sources.

On top of that, some of the blame directed at video games (see the previous sections that discuss health issues) is warranted.

So, it’s not entirely unreasonable for news outlets to make these claims either.

The deeper problem is that news segments often run too short to really get into the nuance of a topic, and if you’re just reading headlines, you might be swayed to think that video games are running your kid’s life.

#3 Misunderstanding

There’s a completely different element at play here.

Have you ever seen a movie or TV show where the mom or dad just doesn’t get their kid at all?

It’s a complete disconnect on interests and hobbies, and the show might revolve around that disconnect.

If this sounds at all familiar, it’s because it’s something that happens in real life.

Kids aren’t their parents.

That sounds obvious, but kids often pick up interests that are completely different from those of their parents.

If that interest happens to involve video games, then a disconnect can occur.

Since the parent doesn’t really understand why the kid likes games so much, they might mistakenly blame video games for behavioral or health changes that they also don’t understand.

It’s not always about parents being mean or unreasonable.

We all misunderstand things, and sometimes, that manifests in the form of a parent blaming things on video games.

#4 Desperation

In a more extreme case, a parent might see a real problem in their child’s life and have no idea how to resolve it.

For a loving parent, that’s a tough place to be.

It’s possible that in a desperate attempt to find any possible solution, a parent could blame video games.

As we’ve already established, there are plenty of cases where games clearly aren’t the problem.

There are also some cases where the parent’s desperation might actually lead to a viable solution.

The real problem in this scenario is that the blame isn’t based on rational analysis.

Instead, parents can get desperate, and that can manifest exactly as you might imagine.

This isn’t designed to pick on parents—quite the opposite.

It’s hard to be responsible for other humans, and none of us get it right all of the time.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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