Many adults have a distorted view of video games. Some think that they are evil and any game involving a gun or negative themes should be banned. Other believe that they are a waste of time, more believe they are a harmless pastime as long as you don’t play them too much, a few believe that they are fun and can be healthy for our cognitive functioning. Whatever you think of video games there has been significant interest in whether violent video games increase aggression in children. Especially since tragedies such as Columbine, blame has been laid on video games for, at least partially, causing these tragedies. Is this true?
Do Violent Video Games Make People More Violent Real Life?
The science is still out on whether violent video games are making our children more violent but the current thought is that they do not. We do not have a definitive answer, and it depends on which scientist you talk to, but many will say that there is not enough evidence to support the hypothesis that violent video games increase aggression. But lots of parents agree that when they turn off their kid’s console, he will yell, cry, scream and shout. All to get back to killing people. But are the games the cause of this?
My Child Is Crying Because…
Perhaps the child is upset because you took away his toy. Taking something that the child enjoys is always sure to get a reaction, so maybe the game isn’t the cause. Especially considering the same thing happens when you take away their toy car. While prying the child from the screen does result in a louder and longer tantrum it is worth looking at whether the game contributes to this.
Violent Video Games Cause Aggression, But…..
A fast paced exciting game, whether it is violent or not, gets the blood pumping and adrenaline going which, in turn, increases the chemicals running through the body. This can give you a bump in aggression. Simple chemicals. When adrenaline gets flowing everyone gets a little more aggressive, it’s a well-documented phenomenon that adrenaline brings with it testosterone which increases aggression. There is no argument on that. The disagreement in the scientific community revolves around whether violent games increase aggression, especially in the long term. Most scientists agree that they do increase aggression short term. Short term as in a couple of minutes.
Then comes the argument on whether or not it is desensitizing our children. There is some validity in this argument. Seeing mutilated bodies on the screen can occasionally cause a disconnect with reality. But this happens so rarely and lasts so shortly that I do not think it is worth considering. Throughout history, people have been exposed to even worse things. If we go back only 200 years to the 1800s, we see that public executions were normal. Families would go the square to watch a criminal beheaded. It was considered fun to go to hanging.
Studies About the Effects of Violent Video Games
There have been many studies about the effects of violent video games. And the scientific opinion is still divided. But if you look at the studies that do show that violent video games make more violent kids then you see one glaring issue with the studies. The vast majority of these studies do not take into account other factors that can influence aggression. Factors such as an abuse, or extenuating circumstances can have a dramatic impact on whether someone is aggressive or more passive.
You only need to look at crime statistics to see that violent video games do not have a negative effect on our children. The crime of all types, including petty and violent, have not increased as the popularity of violent video games increases. There is no correlation between the statistics, and numbers don’t lie.
Benefits To Playing Video Games
There are in fact benefits to playing video games, especially in children that have ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. Researchers at Stetson University published a study in the Springers Journal of Youth and Adolescence that found that small amounts of violent video games such as Mortal Combat, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto every day was relaxing and had a calming effect on the children.
There are also many other benefits to video games. They make great fun for the family. These games don’t have to be violent, but if you can get your family together for a game of Mario Kart or a strategy game like Civilization, then you are sure to get the kids more engaged than you would if you were playing a board or the card game such as Crib. So why not trade the board for a remote and have even more fun while still getting the excellent family bonding feeling.
If you are still worried about your children playing video games here are some tips that will help put your mind at ease.
- Limit gaming time, regardless of the type of game, throughout the day. The standard is between 1-3 hours a day.
- Look at the rating on a game when you buy it. You do have to be careful here though as the ratings are still being refined and for some games make no sense. For example, Portal is classified as a shooting game. The character, you, do in fact have a gun. Instead of bullets, it shoots portals that you then use to solve puzzles and escape a building. No violence but the game has the same rating as Call of Duty. A game where you slaughter hundreds of bad guys. When in doubt, ask the sales person in the store.
- Have the kid play games in the living room where you can keep an eye on it. This also gives you the benefit of being able to hang out and maybe play with them. It’s a great way to get the family involved.