Violence in video games has long concerned parents, who worry about the influence on impressionable minds of controversial games such as Grand Theft Auto. In many games, players score higher when they break the (virtual) law, behave violently toward others, and maximize the pain inflicted on other players.
So pervasive is the idea that violent video games cause violent behavior that a 2010 survey found that 49% of adults believe that violent games can inspire some people to commit real-life atrocities. A study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture undermines this claim, suggesting that violent video games do not increase violent behavior. Instead, the researchers argue, duration of play is what matters.
Violent Video Games Might Not Cause Violent Behavior
Researchers interviewed about 200 10- and 11-year-olds about their video game-playing habits. They also asked the children’s teachers about their classroom behavior, problem-solving skills, and academic engagement. Two-thirds of the children reported playing video games each day, with boys almost twice as likely as girls to engage in daily game playing. About 10% of children reported playing games for more than three hours each day.
Children who played video games for less than an hour each day showed lower rates of aggression than children who did not play at all—even when the games in question were violent ones. Children who played for longer than three hours each day, however, had higher levels of aggression and lower levels of academic engagement. The study’s authors argue that their results show that daily video game play is not linked to an increase in aggression. Instead, prolonged play may increase aggression, though the study did not illuminate why this might be.
The Video Game Debate Rages On
Researchers in the study were careful to point out that new technologies often inspire a moral panic. At various times, parents have worried about the effects of violent movies and television, aggressive music lyrics, and even radio shows. With each technological advancement, though, there hasn’t been a sudden new wave of crime.
So, the jury is still out on the effects of video games. Research consistently finds benefits such as an increase in spatial reasoning skills, but some studies have uncovered a correlation between violent games and violent behavior. A 2014 study found that kids ages 8 to 17 who played many violent video games displayed an increase in violent behavior, even three years later. Another study found an increase in violence among teens who played violent video games.
The way a video game affects an individual child may depend on a number of factors, including parental involvement, the child’s personality, how much time the child spends on games, and similar components of a child’s environment.
- 22 charts and graphs on video games and youth violence. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://videogames.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=003627
- Bingham, J. (2015, April 1). Study finds no evidence violent video games make children aggressive. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/11507576/Study-finds-no-evidence-violent-video-games-make-children-aggressive.html
- Rettner, R. (2014, March 24). Do violent games boost aggression? Study adds fire to debate. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/44325-video-games-aggression-debate.html
- Violent video games make teenagers more aggressive, study finds. (2012, October 8). Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/9593188/Violent-video-games-make-teenagers-more-aggressive-study-finds.html
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