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Do Violent Video Games Cause Aggression in Children? Reaction Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1539

Reaction Paper

Playing video games has become an extremely popular activity for both children and adults. Technology has improved to such a degree that the games available are quite realistic and sophisticated. There have been mixed reactions regarding children playing any video games; while some of the games offer content that is educational and can greatly assist with the development of fine motor skills, others contain more troubling themes and material. There is a concern that enough exposure to games that contain violence and killing will desensitize children to the actual effects of real violence. In addition, one worrisome aspect of video games is that some of them connect to the Internet, allowing children to play the games online with unknown adults and peers (Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence.) Some states, like California, have attempted to restrict the ability of minors to purchase violent video games (Adams.)  This paper will examine whether violent video games may be responsible for increased aggression in children who spend much of their time playing them.

There is some evidence that children who have been exposed to violence can become immune to the effects of violence, may be more likely to imitate what they have witnessed, and demonstrate more aggressive behavior (Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence.) Some of the most sought-after video games contain the killing of people or animals, substance use and/or abuse, lack of respect for authority and the law, sexual exploitation of women as well as violence against females, criminal behaviors, stereotypical portrayals of race, gender, and ethnicity, and profane or obscene language as well as hand motions. It is a significant problem that in these games, violence is offered, indeed, applauded, as an acceptable way to resolve conflicts.

Children who become overly involved with video games can develop difficulties that may include:

  • impairment in social skills.
  • a tendency to spend less time reading, resulting in mediocre or failing grades.
  • less involvement in physical activities, causing them to be at risk of becoming overweight.
  • exhibiting aggressive thoughts and behaviors.

Because videogames are a newer form of entertainment than television and movies, there has been less research in this area than on the older sources of media entertainment. Psychologists have found, however, in the limited studies that have been done, that violent video games may even have a stronger impact on children’s aggression than television or movies because the games are extremely involving as well is being interactive; violent behavior in these games is rewarded; and children repeat their behaviors over and over again when playing these games (Violent Videogames– Psychologists Help Protect Children from Harmful Effects.) Each of these characteristics of video games tends to reinforce learning: active involvement, earning rewards, as well as repetitive behavior.

When the content of video games is analyzed, a 2001 study found that most of the video games involved violence, and about 50% of them contained actions that would result in serious injury or death if such behaviors occurred in real life (Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence.) In addition, the study concluded that spending a large amount of time playing violent video games correlates with having more aggressive thoughts, emotions, and actions (Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence.) Just as troubling was the finding that these children are less likely to have empathy and a caring attitude towards their friends and classmates. Interestingly, the research demonstrated that these impacts from video games occurred just as frequently among children who formerly had been non-aggressive as among children who had been aggressive to begin with. Children in both the United States and Japan were studied, and those who reported spending a great deal of time playing violent video games demonstrated more aggressive behavior months later than their contemporaries who did not spend their time playing these games (Violent Video Games Linked to Child Aggression.)

The findings of these studies raise a significant issue: whether children who are more aggressive are more likely to play violent video games, or if the children become more aggressive after playing such games. So far, studies have found evidence to support the notion that children who are exposed to violent video games become more aggressive over time than their peers, even when the researchers considered the level of aggression of the children at the onset of the study. Their conclusion was that for many children, playing violent video games is likely a strong predictor of future aggressive behavior (Violent Video Games Linked to Child Aggression.)

Because of the growing concern about violence in video games and its impact on the children who play them, the industry that produces these games has begun putting labels on them, such as “Real-life violence,” and “Violence level– not recommended for children under the age of 12.” In many games, killing a figure no longer means that it disappears in a puff of smoke, but rather, the victims are seen falling to their knees, gasping and clutching at their faces or necks after being shot (Shin.) In other games, after shooting people the screen becomes filled with blood that has been sprayed all over the scene. When explosives are used in these games, body parts are scattered all over the area.

The most notorious example of teenagers who have become obsessed with video games becoming violent themselves was in the case of the Columbine shootings on April 20, 1999. On that day, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold launched an attack on their high school in Littleton, Colorado, killing 13 students and injuring 23 before killing themselves. While it would be impossible to establish a clear connection between the boys’ playing violent video games and their subsequent criminal actions, the killers were both fairly obsessed with playing the videogame known as Doom, which is an extremely bloody, violent game that is used by the United States military to train soldiers essentially how to kill (Shin.) A group that follows Internet hate groups discovered that Eric Harris had customized his version of the game to allow two shooters to launch an attack, with extreme amounts of ammunition, against a population of people who were completely unable to defend themselves, mimicking what ultimately transpired in Columbine. In addition, it was later discovered that the two students had fulfilled a class project requirement by creating a video in which the two of them had entered the school, wearing trench coats, armed with guns and murdering school athletes. Less than one year later, they brought their videotape to fruition by attacking their fellow students at Columbine.

The Columbine shootings were only the first instance of school violence that focused attention on violent video games and their impact on children and teenagers. After Columbine, there were similar attacks on schools in Paducah, Kentucky, as well as Jonesboro, Arkansas. These incidents continued to shine the spotlight on violent video games and their effect on children and young adults. A thorough review of the meta-analytic literature that addresses this issue supports the finding that video games do indeed heighten the level of aggression and violence in this population (Bushman.) In addition, the studies considered confirmed that exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal and aggression-related thoughts and feelings. Finally, it was concluded that becoming involved with such games decreases the skills necessary to form and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships.

When one considers how frequently studies have made the connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior, it becomes crucial for parents to play a significant role in monitoring their children’s activities and to be aware of exactly what the content is in such games. There are many ways that parents can remain cognizant about exactly what their children are being exposed to when they play video games. An important way for parents to prevent problems with their children’s reactions to playing videogames is for parents to be aware of the Entertainment Software Rating Board rating in order to find out more about the content of the game (Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence.) In addition, they can join their children in playing the games in order to experience the actual content of each game. That way, parents can play a more active role in choosing which games would be appropriate to expose their children to without worrying about negative consequences precipitated by games that contain violence and aggression. It would also be important for parents to warn their children about the possible risks of playing games with people that they connect with on the Internet. Finally, because parents set an example for their children, it is important for adults to model behavior that they would expect of their children, including making better choices about what types of video entertainment in which to engage.

Works Cited

Adams, Jill. “Effects of Violent Video Games.” 3 May 2010. The Los Angeles Times. 14 November 2011:http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/03/health/la-he-closer-20100503

Bushman, Craig Anderson and Brad. “Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Affect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature.” Psychological Science (2001): 353-360.

“Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence.” August 2006. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 14 November 2011:http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_video_games_playing_with_violence

Shin, Grace. “Video Games: A Cause of Violence and Aggression.” 4 January 2008. Serendip. 14 November 2011 <http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1723>.

“Violent Video Games–Psychologists Help Protect Children from Harmful Effect.” American Psychological Association. 14 November 2011:http://www.apa.org/research/action/games.aspx

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