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Parents urged to join games

18169640 Dianella teenagers Cassie Riccelli, Ryan Riccelli and Emily Rosata. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Parents are being encouraged to educate themselves about and join in their children's video games amid growing concern about their influence on young minds.

A public seminar on electronic gaming at Perth Modern School this week heard from parents concerned about their children's gaming habits.

Hosted by the Department for Communities, the seminar heard about the pros and cons of electronic gaming from Macquarie University researcher Wayne Warburton, who is deputy director of the Children and families Research Centre, and Edith Cowan University lect-urer Glen Spoors.

Despite 92 per cent of Australian households having electronic games, Dr Warburton said many parents were unaware of the often violent or inappropriate nature of some video games.

"Video games are like food," he said. "A small amount of violence isn't going to make a big difference but a steady diet of it, like bad food, is going to have an impact."

Dr Warburton said though video games could be educational and engaging, they also had a dark side, including the emerging problem of screen addiction.

Attention deficit issues, falling school performance and the per-petuation of misogynistic or racial stereotypes in some games were other concerns.

He backed a new Parenting WA brochure that urges parents to take an interest in gaming, choose appropriate games and to play those games with their children

"Parents are not playing games with their kids and when they see them they are often very surprised and shocked at the content," he said. He also recommended young people have no more than two hours recreational screen time each day.

Dianella mother Sue Riccelli said electronics were a big issue in her household and her son, in particular, wanted to spend a lot of time on his PlayStation.

Her main concerns were usage and safety and she implemented rules from an early age, including keeping electronics out of the children's bedrooms.

Mother-of-two Josephine Wilson, who attended the seminar, said her son played online computer games with his friends and it was often hard to tear him away.

"It's like a soccer match, except there's no exercise, so everyone feels committed and if we ask him to get off, they say they can't," she said. "It's very difficult to walk away from, and that's the thing that could be frustrating."