In this paper I will explore the impact that video games has on children. I will discuss the research on the effect of violent video games on children in particular. At this moment gun violence and particularly school shootings are an extremely hot topic that has resulted in the speculation of different causes for this recent surge in gun violence.
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Violent video games is one of the leading reasons many are giving for these horrific acts. With all of these accusations flying around it is important to have the all the facts. I will discuss the evidence and beliefs of the side that says violent video games do cause violence and the side that says they do not, then after I will describe the potential effects video games in general can have on you both positive and negative.
I will discuss the first side of the debate, arguing that violent video games do lead to violent tendencies in children. The argument is that playing violent video games increases aggressive behavior in the player, and playing video games in general promotes antisocial behavior. A study done by Douglas A. Gentile and Craig A. Anderson shows that playing violent video games increases aggressive behavior in some populations more than others. They claim that no one is immune to the effects of these violent video games and kids are affected most due to lack of development. In a recent survey of 600 eighth to ninth grade students, students averaged 9 hours playing video games per week with boys averaging 13 and girls averaging 5. Although the evidence collected is still limited, research suggests that the amount of time playing video games has been linked to multiple risk factors for maladaptive development including smoking, obesity, and poor academic performance. Though many video games are meant to be educational, challenging, and entertaining almost all contain some sort of violence with 89 percent of video games containing violence. About half of those violent video games include violence towards another character within that game. Surveys of fourth to eighth grade children show more than half prefer video games that include violence towards another character or person, or some type of fantasy violence. Even though there is less research on the effects of violent video games compared to the effects of violent TV and movies, the evidence for both are comparable to one another. In specific, violent video games increase aggressive thoughts and feelings, aggressive behaviors, physical arousal, and decrease prosocial behaviors.
There are a multitude of ideas as to why it is assumed violent video games have a greater effect on someone than violent TV and movies, and they are only becoming more acceptable with the increased realism inside video games. The effects of video games however are thought to be greater than watching violent TV and movies. There are a total of six reasons for this; identifying with the aggressor increases the imitation or mimicking of the aggressor. Once a player starts to identify as the character they’re playing, they will start to use the same thought process as that character while playing and that process can translate into the real world. Active participation in aggressive behaviors in-game increases the learning of these behaviors which is dangerous for players as there is nothing that limits how violent and aggressive you can be in the game except the player themselves. Practice completing an entire sequence is more effective than only partially doing so. Violent video games repeatedly require you to carry out each step involved with the murder of someone which increases the retention of how to commit that crime of the player. Violence is uninterrupted in video games and especially war video games which causes exposure and adaptation to that continuous violence, and as a result translates into the everyday thinking and expressiveness of someone who plays those games. Repetition increases learning in these games and there is a lot of it. Repeating in act eventually causes you to remember said act and that’s basically what violent video games promote(ex. Shooting people/things).
Finally, rewards from these missions and objectives increase imitation. If a reward or an incentive is offered in turn for completing a task, it motivates someone to complete that task and with violence it can become an extremely dangerous thing. Although there still isn’t a plethora of research and evidence on this topic there still is a lot of power and power within these results that can make you give buying that new shooter game for your child a second thought. In this section I will be discussing the second side of the debate that video games and violent video games in specific do not promote violence and aggression, but actually offer many benefits from the engagement in these activities. Psychiatrist Cheryl K. Olson adamantly states that there is no connection between violent video games and violent and aggressive behavior. One of her arguments against the claim that video games cause violence is that there is a lack of sufficient evidence in order to support the claim that games can cause real world violence. In fact, for most, playing video games does not have a significant impact on players with a calling for more research in order to identify the “at risk populations. Cheryl Olson even claims that playing video games has pro-social consequences that could substitute for human companionship. Many surveys show that kids actually come together and bond in the real world by discussing all the hottest video game trends(ex. Fortnite). This is found to be especially true for those with mild learning disorders as they have started to depend upon video games in order to make new friends and develop relationships. Research from Sarah M. Coyne, Wayne A. Warburton, Lee W. Essig, and Laura A. Stockdale has shown that many video games can promote helping behaviors and increase empathy in players.
While their research has shown violent video games can decrease prosocial behavior and promote aggressiveness, it has been found that this effect is very short term and only lasts between 2-5 years. Overall the argument against video games causing violence is lack of research and bias by the researchers themselves. This section will be used to discuss the approach and strength of each body of research. The side that states video games cause violence and aggression in players both has many strength and weaknesses. First I will discuss the weaknesses starting with the overall advantage in research aimed at video games and violence compared to the argument against said topic. There are pages upon pages of research papers ascertaining that video games cause real world violence and aggression in players and particularly children whereas arguments against that are usually ideological or theoretical with little concrete evidence to support their claims. Another advantage in the way researches have set up their arguments supporting their claims has been the undeniability of major key points such as repetition causing adaptation and integration as well as the link to maladaptive development in the children who do avidly play video games. Next I will cover the main weaknesses of the argument that video games cause violence with the most important being that the sample sizes are incredibly too small in order to create an accurate assessment of data. Many of these studies do not contain “violent and “non-violent games that are irrefutably different in levels of actual violence which sways the results towards the desired side. Finally, bias is shown in many of these studies as these studies of aggressive behavior used dependent variables that are not real aggressive behaviors. The side arguing against the claim that video games causes violence has little foothold due to lack of solid evidence and a dependence on theoretical and ideological content.
However, the strengths that are found are that surveys show that kids actually come together to socialize about video games and that kids with learning disorders benefit tremendously from them. Weaknesses for this side of the argument are plentiful with one being that though video games in general don’t promote violence, it has been found that violent video games do as well as promoting antisocial behavior that can last anywhere from 2-5 years which is a crippling piece of evidence for their side. Another weakness is a lack of proper research in general that argues against the other sides claims. Though the side arguing that video games cause violence doesn’t have a large amount of research yet, it is still more plentiful and researched more than the side that refutes this. I will now describe personal experiences in which I myself have shown to be more aggressive after heavily playing violent video games for prolonged periods of time. As a kid I used to be an avid Call of Duty fan and played obsessively for over 5 years until the franchise started to die down once I reached the ninth grade. Before discovering Call of Duty I was a relatively mild-tempered kid that rarely acted out aggressively or violently, but after only a few months of play time I started to become increasingly short-tempered and violent in both thoughts and actions. I even noticed that these effects even translated to the severity of my ADHD as it became a tremendous handicap once I reached the fifth grade requiring me to be prescribed a high dose of Adderall.
As a result of personal experience and overwhelming research compared to the other side, I support the argument that video games do in fact cause violent tendencies and aggressiveness in children especially those with learning disorders such as myself. My view of the weakness in the side of video games not causing violence is the fact that it assumes a perfect storm in a sense for the children who play these games relying on ideology alone. The fact of the matter and strength of the the argument I side with is that video games are becoming increasingly violent and increasingly realistic as time goes along and fans demands grow. An example is the game Fortnite which has a cartoonish art style appealing to children, but promotes the act of shooting and killing others in order to succeed. The game takes you through all the steps of doing so as well from picking up weapons and ammunition to allocating resources to protect yourself. Players are then subjected to strategizing how they would like to kill their enemy with what they have. Though there needs to be much more research done to learn more about video games and violence, it cannot be denied that there is in fact a negative effect on the developing youth and it cannot be ignored.
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