Child Behavior: Do video games create a violent culture?



There are some researchers who don’t believe exposure to violent video games produce benign results. Some researchers believe these excessively violent games may be more harmful than either violence on television or in the movies because of the interactive nature of the games. Dr. Craig Anderson, a researcher at Iowa State University, believes that “violent video games provide a forum for learning and practicing aggressive solutions to conflicting situations.” Dr Anderson is not alone in his thinking.

 

Other researchers in the area of youth violence believe that there are two ways that these games can spur violent actions. First, youngsters can, after playing violent games, internalize the message that the world is a hostile place and decide that acting aggressively is the best or only way to deal situations that arise.

 

Additionally, after being exposed to violence day after day, for hours on end kids can become desensitized to violence and it loses its emotional impact. Once a youngster is emotionally numb to violence, it’s much easier for him to engage in a violent act.

So what is the verdict? Does playing violent video games cause violent behavior? Do kids become emotionally numb after playing and are they more prone to violence? None of the research on playing these games and violence can prove a direct cause and effect relationship. The best the research shows that there may be a link between these ultra-violent video games and violent behavior from our children and youth. What that specific link is has yet to be determined satisfactorily.

 

This “link” might be just one more risk factor, which when coupled with other real world influences, contribute to antisocial behavior or violence. What we do know is that about 90% of boys and 40% of girls play violent video games and that the vast majority of these kids do NOT commit antisocial acts. Additionally most kids relate, that it’s not the violence that keeps them playing, but rather the challenge of conquering obstacles and the achievement they experience that makes the game interesting. Presently no research has found that these games are the PRIMARY cause of aggressive behavior or that games can turn normal kids into violent ones. 

 

After reviewing all the available research, it appears that at worst there is some relationship, which at this point isn’t completely clear, between violent game playing and increased aggressive acts in children and youth and at best it is a harmless diversion.

My advice to parents would be this: if your child or adolescent has issues with aggression or aggressive tendencies, these games might provide the “tipping point,” and it would be best if they are kept away from them. Additionally, monitor your kids’ activities. Take note if your child spends an inordinate amount of time playing games, to the exclusion of all other activities. This might be an indication that something is going on that may require your attention or possibly the attention of a professional.

 

Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.

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