Child Behavior: Do video games lead to violence?

Something Hudson Valley parents should know

While Hudson Valley parents will be having their kids home from school over the upcoming holidays, it seems worth a visit to Dr. Paul Schwartz to discuss whether or nor video games can be detrimental, even perhaps leading to violence as some news stories suggest.

It seems that every week a news headline relates a story about another adolescent or even preadolescent disclosing a plot to bring guns to school or highlights another plan where a child or group engages in violent acts. Violence among children and teens has always been a concern.


What causes violence in children and adolescents? Recently violent video games have been accused of being one of the culprits associated with violent behavior in youngsters.

Should parents be concerned with the potential negative effects that violent video games may have on their children's behavior? First, I’d like to state my personal bias: As a parent I think these video games are absolutely terrible and depict brutal behavior in a very graphic and offensive manner.


How to use "time outs" effectively.

But, do they cause violent behavior in children? Historically, parents have always been concerned about the “new” technology their children are exposed to: comics, rock and roll music, television, movies, the internet, Dungeons and Dragons, even Harry Potter. The fact that children amuse themselves with things that are different from what we were immersed in as youngsters doesn’t necessarily mean it will result in negative behavior. 

Given my bias, I would love to suggest that violent video games result in increased violence in children and adolescents, so that all who read this column will begin a grassroots campaign to ban all violent video games. I would love them to be taken off the shelves.


But, as much as I would like to tell parents that there is a cause and effect relationship between the video games and violence, I can’t. Research doesn’t support that contention. In fact, the research is extremely mixed.


Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner, a husband and wife research team from Harvard Medical School recently released a book called Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do. The authors contend that most boys play these mature-rated video games to test boundaries and to experiment safely with the risky behavior displayed.

Kids who play online games think of it as a social activity. For many, “gaming” serves as a stress reliever and a harmless form of entertainment and relaxation, not as a precursor to violent behavior. Olson and Kutner contend that, just as with any other activity their children are engaged in, parents should be aware of what their children are doing and monitor whether this activity is consuming too much of their child’s time.


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





To see what other experts are saying click here.