Video Game Violence and Children

Video gaming has become extremely popular both among children, adolescents and adults. Children and adolescents especially dedicate a lot of time to this activity, which may have both positive and negative effects on them. On the positive side video games may be educational, foster the development of problem solving skills, improve a person's manual dexterity, coordination and computer literacy. However, video games are most often focused on negative behaviors such as the killing of people or animals, the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, criminal behavior and disrespect for authority and the law. Video games sometimes also promote sexual exploitation and violence toward women; racial, sexual and gender stereotypes; and foul language, obscenities and obscene gestures.

One of the main issues in the discussion about the impact of video gaming is how children and adolescents are affected when they are exposed to so much violence. Studies have shown that children with greater exposure to violence tend to become numb to it, to imitate what they see and to be more aggressive than other children. Playing violent video games may teach children to accept and use violence as a normal way to handle problems.

The negative impact on children is greater when violence in video games is more realistic and when exposure to it is repeated. In contrast with television and movies, where the viewer has a passive role, the nature of video games is such that it encourages players to identify with their characters and become active participants in the game's script. In most video games violent acts are continually repeated, which also increases the negative effect on children as the method of repetition is an effective teaching method of behavioral patterns. In addition, violent images may have greater negative effects on children who already have emotional, behavioral and learning problems.

Another factor that contributes to this increase in aggressive behavior is the fact that children often spend a lot of time playing video games. A study carried out in 2000 showed that most teenagers do not have a time limit on video gaming imposed by their parents. Video gaming is more popular among boys than among girls, with adolescent boys spending on average 13 hours a week playing video games versus five hours a week for girls, according to a study from 2004.

n addition to increased aggressive behavior, teenagers who play violent video games for a long time show other problems such as confrontation with teachers and lower school achievements. Playing video games, even if they are not violent, can also lead to poor social skills, low interest in reading, family and other hobbies, as well as too little exercising and becoming overweight. Children and adolescents may even become obsessed with video games. In addition, some games are played online, which allows the players to connect with unknown adults and peers.

One way for parents to limit the negative impact that violent video games have on their children is to control the content of the games. This can be done by complying with the recommendations of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The ESRB is a self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), previously the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), under pressure from concerned groups. At ESRB specially trained raters review over 1,000 products a year, considering factors such as the amount of violence, sex, controversial language and substance abuse. However, studies have shown that most parents are not aware of the ESRB rating or the content of the video games their children play. The ESRB uses the following ratings: Early Childhood, or EC (for children three years or older), Everyone, or E (for persons ages six and older), Everyone 10+ (E10+), Teen, or T (for people above 13 years of age), Mature, or M (for persons ages 17 and older) and Adults Only, or AO (not intended for people under the age of 18). In addition, there is a Rating Pending (RP) sign for games still awaiting final rating prior to their release.

As a parent one should be aware that due to the popularity of video games it would be very difficult to completely exclude them from children's lives. However, it is possible to limit the negative effects on children by knowing the content and the rating of their video games, setting a time limit for video gaming, supervising their Internet use (many games are available for playing online) and not installing video equipment in their rooms.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy
Craig A. Anderson; Douglas A. Gentile; Katherine E. Buckley.
Oxford University Press, 2007
Video Game Violence
Hoerrner, Mark; Hoerrner, Keisha.
Children's Voice, Vol. 15, No. 1, January/February 2006
Violent Virtual Video Games and Hostile Thoughts
Tamborini, Ron; Eastin, Matthew S.; Skalski, Paul; Lachlan, Kenneth; Fediuk, Thomas A.; Brady, Robert.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 48, No. 3, September 2004
Models for Aggressive Behavior: The Attributes of Violent Characters in Popular Video Games
Lachlan, Kenneth A.; Smith, Stacy L.; Tamborini, Ron.
Communication Studies, Vol. 56, No. 4, December 2005
Game over for Childhood? Violent Video Games as First Amendment Speech
Schlafly, Andrew L.
Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal, Vol. 38, No. 2, Fall 2012
Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence
Gerard Jones.
Basic Books, 2002
Playing with Our Minds: Violent Video Games Teach Our Kids to Point and Shoot, Say Their Critics. the Truth May Be Every Bit as Frightening to Members of a Generation Raised to Believe They're Thinking outside the Box
Suellentrop, Chris.
The Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 3, Summer 2006
Research Update: The Joystick Generation: Video Games Have Measurable Social Effects on Adolescents
Barenthin, Jami; Van Puymbroeck, Marieke.
Parks & Recreation, Vol. 41, No. 8, August 2006
Popular Video Games: Quantifying the Presentation of Violence and Its Context
Smith, Stacy L.; Lachlan, Ken; Tamborini, Ron.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 47, No. 1, March 2003
Mitigating the Effects of Gun Violence on Children and Youth
Garbarino, James; Bradshaw, Catherine P.; Vorrasi, Joseph A.
The Future of Children, Vol. 12, No. 2, Summer-Fall 2002
Violence, Games & Art (Part 1)
Gillespie, Thom.
Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology, Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring 2000
Violence, Games & Art (Part 2)
Gillespie, Thom.
Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology, Vol. 9, No. 2, Summer 2000
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