Parents & Teachers:
Violent Video Games & Aggressive Behaviors
Video games have been available to consumers for the last 30 years. They are unique because they encourage players to become a part of the game's script. Players are encouraged to actively participate as a character by choosing how they will interact with other characters – including which weapons will be used while fighting or attacking other characters. Weapons often include guns, knives, pipes, bombs, etc.
Due to consumer demand over the last three decades, most video games produced and sold today are violent. Today's sophisticated video games require players to pay constant attention to the game as compared to passively watching television or a movie.
As active participants in the game's script players strongly identify with violent characters portrayed in violent video games. This identification with characters in video games increases a player's ability to learn and retain aggressive thoughts and behaviors they see portrayed in violent games (Anderson et. al.).
Further research has suggested that exposure to violent video games may increase angry and hostile feelings while interacting with peers, teachers, and adults (Anderson et. al.) Exposure to violent video game may decrease compassionate feelings for others with whom they interact (Anderson, et al).
In addition, the National Television Violence Study (1996) determined that 73% of violent video games reward violence as an effective way to handle conflict. Studies conducted by Bandura and Berkowitz have found that rewarding violent behavior is conducive to learning.
As a result, players who are continually rewarded for violent responses may experience an increase in their aggressive behavior and/or their perception of aggressive behavior (Bandura, 1977; Berkowitz, 1993).
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APA's Recommendations and Findings
In order to further understand the negative affects on aggressive behavior your child or adolescent may experience from their exposure to violent media visit the American Psychological Association's (APA) Web site at Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence.
Here are a few of the APA's recommendations and findings:
- Violent behavior is learned, often early in a child's life.
- Children learn to behave by watching people around them and by observing characters in movies, video games, and television.
- Violent media increases mean-spirited behavior and may cause fear, mistrust, and fear – including nightmares.
- The APA recommends monitoring media consumption.
- The APA recommends that parents discuss media with their children.
- The APA advocates a reduction of violence in video games and interactive media.
- The APA recommends increasing the public's awareness regarding the potential impact playing violent video games may have on player's aggressive behavior as indicated in both short and long term research studies.
- Parents should use the Entertainment System Rating Board (ESRB) rating system to evaluate media their children would like to watch or purchase.
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Anderson, C. A., Carnagey, N. ., Flanagan, M., Benjamin, A.J., Eubanks, J., Valentine, J. C. (2004). Violent Video Games: Specific Effects of Violent Content on Aggressive Thoughts and Behavior. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 36, p. 199-249.
Anderson, C. A., & Dill, K. E. (2000). Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the laboratory and in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, p.772-790.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, N. J: Prentice Hall.
Berkowitz, L. (1993). Aggression: Its causes, consequences, and control. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Gentile, D. A., Walsh, D. A. (2002). A Normative Study of Family Media Habits. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, p.157-178.
National Television Violence Study (1996). Mediascope: Studio City, CA.
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By Andrea Norcia, college student writer
Additional articles by Andrea Norcia:
The Impact of Video Games
Recommended Web Sites:
Common Sense Media: This is an invaluable media resource to learn more about current movies, television shows, music and video games.
Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence: This Web site is focused on children who are between the ages of 0 and 8 years old.
Entertainment Safety Ratings Board (ESRB): This Web site informs readers how media is rated based on content.
Reviewed by: Adolescent Interest Group
Last reviewed: August 2013