Is Black Ops 3 Good for Kids?

Black Ops 3, the latest addition to Activision’s Call of Duty series, has ranked second in video game sales (first goes to Fallout 4) for the Christmas 2015 season. Released in November of this year, it generated $550 million in its opening weekend of sales alone. M-rated games like the Call of Duty and Fallout series not only trounce games made for younger children in sales, they also hold a vast amount of appeal for younger game playersa conundrum for many households, particularly when parents and/or older teens play these video games. But is Black Ops 3 good for kids?

There is no denying that Black Ops 3 and Fallout 4 are beautifully rendered, captivating, engaging, and require far more than simple “shoot em up” skills. Many Black Ops 3 players prefer the online multiplayer mode of the game, which requires communication and teamwork skills in order to be successful. Both the single player campaign and multiplayer mode call upon a host of thinking skillsfocus, time management, self-control, self-awareness, and even positive psychology skills like empathy, gratitude, and resilience. Fallout 4 is a single player game that requires persistence and planning skills to complete quests.

While we don't recommend these games for children under 14, ultimately, only parents can answer the question, "Is Black Ops 3 good for kids?"

While Black Ops 3 contains violence and language, it also exercises a host of thinking skills.

If you happen to buy one of these games for your child this holiday season, expect him or her to play it for hours over Christmas vacation. If your child is a healthy teenager, there’s probably very little for you to be concerned about, even though there is an excessive amount of violence in these games. In my professional opinion, however, if you have a child with psychological or social/emotional concerns, you should be very careful about purchasing this type of violent game. These types of games are truly not appropriate for children younger than 14, even if it’s the number one gift on their wish list. Younger children may not fully compartmentalize or comprehend the context of screen-based violence and can be desensitized by the realistic nature of the fighting and destruction in these games.

For many teenagers, playing games like Black Ops 3 is a common after school activity that allows them to hang out with their friends, virtually or physically. While parents may have some concerns about the violent nature of games in the Call of Duty franchise, the benefits of an activity that is shared with friends and presents many cognitive challenges should also be considered. So, if these M-rated games do not insult your own sensibilities as a parent, you might just want to let your kids be happy this holiday season.

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I do want to stress that the team at LearningWorks for Kids has concerns about the impact of violent games on our target audience, children younger than 14. While the research does NOT indicate that playing violent games actually makes kids more likely to commit violent acts, it does clearly suggest a desensitization to observations and experiences of violence. We believe that this is problematic for younger children. With the exception of those with mental illness, older teens and adults are typically able to recognize the screen-based nature of the violence in M-rated games without it affecting psychological adjustment. For more information, see our articles on translating ESRB ratings and our recommendations for a developmentally healthy play diet for kids 14 and older.

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