How Violence In Video Games Affects Children?

Summary: It seems that I find myself writing about video games and TV watching behavior more and more often. As you read this article, you will understand why this a critical issue for parents, but more important it is a critical issue for our children’s future.

As you will read, there is a significant problem for our youth, in that most parents do not adequately monitor the amount of time that children are playing video games, and the content of those video games. THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM.

It’s also a problem because many movies and videos that boys are attracted to contain growing amounts of violence. For example, kids wrestling videos would seem like an oxymoron…right? Yet, you will find kids wrestling videos online … if you search for them. These videos are violent, bloody and clearly inappropriate for children and adolescents.

For many years, it has been argued that there wasn’t strong data to suggest that there are negative effects of violent video games. In fact, some authors have suggested that we should be focused on the positive effects of video games on children. This is absurd.

What Are The Effects Of Violent Video Games On Children?

The data is now becoming clear. “Research suggests that repeated exposure to video games with violent content is associated with a constellation of negative outcomes for youth, including academic difficulties, aggression, trait hostility, and lower scores on measures of empathy.” (summary article in the Clinician’s Research Digest, published July 2004).

In this article, I will summarize these research findings, and offer a some specific guidelines for parents.

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Key Research Findings

On average, it is estimated that the typical American child plays approximately 7 hours worth of video games per week.

In a survey of eighth and ninth graders conducted at an Iowa State University [Gentile, D.A., Lynch, P.J., Linder, J.R., and Walsh, D. A. (2004)] the authors found that these 8th and 9th graders played video games for an average of nine hours a week. The same studies found that males were more likely than females to spend time playing video games (thirteen hours for boys versus five hours for girls.)

In the Iowa State Study, researchers found that sixty-two percent of the video games contained violence.

In the same Iowa State Study, only 13% of the children indicated that their parents limited the amount of time that they were allowed to play video games, and only 15% reported that their parents regularly check the ratings before allowing them to rent or purchase a game.

Finally, the same students reported arguments with teachers on a weekly or daily basis. They were more likely to be involved in physical fights.

Finally, in the same Iowa State study, the amount of video game playing was associated with school performance; meaning that those kids who played the most video games tended to have the worst school performance.

In a study conducted at the University of Toledo (Funk, J.B., Baldacci, H.B., Pasold, T., and Baumgardner, J., 2004) the authors found that exposure to video game violence produced lower ratings on empathy toward others pain and suffering. In addition, these same students, who reported high levels of exposure, also exhibited stronger pro-violent attitudes.

In a third study conducted at Yale University, researchers found that undergraduate students who played violent video games were affected in profound ways that altered their self-concepts. With just 10 minutes of violent video games, participants rated themselves as more aggressive. (Uhlmann, E. and Swanson, J., 2004)

Where Does This Data Point Us Toward?

These studies are three recent examples of a growing trend. There is more of an acceptance of video games, as a way to occupy children and keep them appeased. Often boys want to participate in violent video game playing, and parents acquiesce without carefully monitoring the type of video game.

Other games are downloaded from the Internet, and parents are even unaware that children are participating.

It used to be that we could say, “Oh it’s just a game…it really doesn’t affect them.”

It’s Not Just A Game!

It’s more than a game. It’s the mental practice of violent behavior…it’s mentally rehearsing, in a vivid, colorful, and real-life fashion, violent behavior. The effects of violent video games are a threat to your child’s future.

Was it better to be playing with toy guns, and shoot your buddy across the yard, and have them fall over? YES!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating this kind of play. It’s just that we have lost perspective.

Perhaps because video gaming has become so integrated into our culture, we seem to think that hour after hour of repetitive video playing (often of a violent nature) isn’t toxic to our kids. IT IS TOXIC! I repeat: The effects of violent video games are a threat to your child’s future.

Violent video games are more toxic than any other form of play and entertainment that has been studied and researched. In the “old days,” even if we play cops and robbers, our childhood friend only falls if he wants to play dead. Many times he doesn’t fall, and says…” you missed.” After a little bit of this, you go on to playing something else. There was no vivid imagery. There were no repeating the same scene dozens of times until you take out the police. There was no blood spewing over the screen. There were no earth-shaking audio tracks to make it more and more real. There was no screaming, screeching of the tires, or trash talk.

The bottom line is that there is a world of difference between the kinds of play that most of us experienced growing up, and what our kids are exposed to through constant video game playing. If we can’t see that, by just sitting down in front of a video game and playing it for a while, then look at this data.

The research is showing more and more negative effects. The effects of video games on children are a net negative one. Even if not violent, video gaming is highly addictive, reduces physical activity, promotes video gaming as an ongoing form of entertainment, and (particularly for boys) tends to lead toward interest in the more violent and aggressive video playing in the future.

If you read these research findings carefully, you also see the negative effects of video games on education. Kids who play the most video games…any type of video game…have the worst academic records.

This is a real problem for your kids…if they are allowed uncensored access to video games.

Conclusion: The Wake-Up Call

  • Children play too many violent video games.
  • Boys play more violent video games than do girls.
  • Playing violent video games increases the risk of academic failure.
  • Violent video games increase aggression.
  • Violent video games increase the risk of behavioral difficulties in school.
  • Violent video games have no redeeming quality and deserve no parental support.
  • Kids watch too much tv (Link here for more)

What Are Parents To Do?

Be willing to take a stand. Let your kids know that violent video games are off-limits. You will not support them. You will not allow them to purchase them. You will not allow them to play them. If your kids want to discuss this with you, please do so. But do so only once…maybe twice. You will likely notice that the discussion quickly turns to whining and arguing…and (I’m guessing) little willingness to hear what you really have to say.

That’s why it is essential to understand the toxic threat these video games represent, and take a strong, definitive stand…”Not in my house!”

Don’t engage in their whining and complaining over this video garbage. When your kids begin to whine and complain because they don’t get to play such video games, walk away from it. Don’t give it any energy. Such complaints are not worthy of your attention or your energy. Don’t give it your energy or your attention.

Set limits, and establish firm consequences for violating this limit. If you find kids have lied to you or deceived you, and are watching violent videos, I suggest that you come down firmly. Don’t just give them a lecture. A lecture will not teach what you want them to learn. Instead, shut down their world for three days, or even a week. Let them know that there is no TV and no video games. In essence, ground them for a few days to show that you mean it.

Live a more authentic live and engaged life. Instead of living in front of a box, I strongly encourage you to nurture a family that is engaged in the world. This doesn’t necessarily mean being involved in twenty-three sporting activities. Instead, it means nurturing activities that are not created and controlled by others. Many kids are learning to expect that they will be “entertained” and are losing any sense of how to engage in activity that promotes healthy values…values that promote relationships, service, compassion, appreciation, beauty, and discipline.

What Are Examples Of Such Real-Life Activity? Here Are Just A Few…

  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Volunteering
  • Developing a family business
  • Helping out neighbors
  • Visiting those in need
  • Going for a hike
  • Taking up golf
  • Tennis
  • Skiing
  • Taking up astronomy
  • Engaging in a hobby
  • And this is only the beginning

The bottom line is that real-life activities involve both mental and physical activity that we were built to produce. We were built to walk. We were built to run. We were built to move. We were built to interact with other human beings. We were built to serve and to help. We were built to grow communities and businesses.

In contrast, very little of this incredible miracle of a human body was designed to be utilized through sitting passively in front of a screen, while engaged in imaginary acts of killing and aggression against others.

Let’s all get real about this. Let’s make it clear to our kids that we will set limits, and we’ll do it firmly. Be willing to endure the constant criticisms that you are an old fogy and that you don’t get it.

Your kids will thank you. Your grandkids will thank you. Future generations will thank you.