Question: A 15-year old spends about 8 hours a day playing violent videogames. What should the parents do about this? Are there risks?
Answer: Well, eight hours of playing violent videogames is quite a lot. Unfortunately there's no solid research that really shows whether or not it's dangerous for the child, whether it's a major warning sign. We don't know whether the videogames are associated with aggressive behavior or whether aggressive kids are drawn to these kinds of videogames. The parents need to understand the meaning of these games in the life of this boy.
So they need to talk with him about what he's playing, why he's doing it. Is he doing it because he's avoiding social interaction, or on the other hand is he doing it because all the other kids are doing it and it's a way for him to have some kind of better understandings of the game than the other kids? Is he coping with anger or depression or other emotional things to get him away from the world and use this as an escape?
One thing I found with my colleagues doing research on videogames is that parents hardly ever know what's going on in games. Maybe 5 or 6 percent of parents actually play games with their kids. So it's very important for parents to have some sense of literacy about what these games are, what the content is, and what the experiences with the kid.
Parents could go to resources on the web. There are a number of sites that review videogames and that talk about the risks and benefits -- and parents can get a lot of information. Chat with other parents, get information, learn more about the media. In summary, yes it's a warning sign. Yes it seems worrisome, but we don't really know how to judge this behavior until we actually can talk with the boy about this and see what's really going on.