Violent Video Games & Aggressive Behaviors
Children and teens today are inundated with electronic media. Kids have grown up with access to cell phones, computers, iPads, and—all too often—violent video games.
A survey of 1,102 adolescents found that 97 percent had played video games in the past day. Although most parents checked the censor’s rating before allowing their child to purchase it, 50 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls favored games with an "M" (mature) or "AO" (adult-only) rating, which implies a high degree of violence.
This is cause for concern. Research has long shown a cause-effect relationship between television violence and aggression among children and youth who watch it. Many social scientists expect video games to have an even greater impact for the following four reasons:
- Children are more likely to imitate the actions of a character with whom they identify. In violent video games, players participate as a character, and even choose which weapons they’ll use while fighting other characters.
- Video games by their very nature require active participation rather than passive observation.
- Repetition increases learning. Video games involve a great deal of repetition. If the games are violent, then the effect is a behavioral rehearsal for violent activity.
- Rewards increase learning, and video games are based on a reward system.
- Tend to be more aggressive
- Are more prone to confrontation with their teachers
- May engage in fights with their peers
- See a decline in school achievements.
What can parents do to minimize their child’s exposure to violent media? Check the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) rating on your child’s video game. Play the game yourself and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the game involve some characters trying to harm others?
- Does this happen frequently, more than once or twice in 30 minutes?
- Is the harm rewarded in any way?
- Is the harm portrayed as humorous?
- Are nonviolent solutions absent or less “fun” than the violent ones?
- Are realistic consequences of violence absent from the game?11
"Video games are not inherently good or bad, just as any tool is not inherently good or bad," writes Douglas Gentile, PhD, who runs the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University where he conducts research on media's impact on children and adults.
"For example, an axe can be used to split logs for a fire to keep people warm on a cold day, or it can be used as a weapon. Likewise, video games can have both positive and negative effects. Content matters, and games are excellent teachers. Violent content in video games can lead people to behave more aggressively. Prosocial content, in contrast, can lead people to behave in a more cooperative and helpful manner."
For more information, see The Impact of Media on Children from the American Psychological Association (APA).
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Cabral, J., Is Generation Y Addicted to Social Media? The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 2011.
William, S., Howe, N. (2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. Cartoons by R.J. Matson. New York, NY: Vintage Original. p. 370. ISBN 0-375-70719-0. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
Buchman & Funk, 1996; Federal Trade Commission, 2000; Walsh, 1999.
Irvine, M. "Survey: 97% of children play video games." The Huffington Post 16 September 2008. Accessed 8 March 2014. Archive
Slatalla, M. (1999, May 10). I beg to differ. Time, 59.
Anderson, C.A., Gentile, D.A., Buckley, K.E. (2007) Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents. Theory, Research, and Public Policy. Oxford University Press.
O’Toole, M.E., (2000). The school shooter: A threat assessment perspective. Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Anderson, C.A. Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions. Psychological Science Agenda. October 2003, Vol. 16, No. 5
Gentile, D. A., Gentile, J.R. (2007) Violent video games as exemplary teachers: A conceptual analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
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Author: Andrea Norcia, M.A.
Reviewed by: Adolescent Interest Group
Last reviewed: June 2014
The Impact of Video Games
Recommended Web Sites:
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Common Sense Media: This is an invaluable media resource to learn more about current movies, television shows, music and video games.
Entertainment Safety Ratings Board (ESRB): This Web site informs readers how media is rated based on content.