The Effects of Violent Video Games on Children
Computer video game is one of the most popular trends among children as well as young adults. From the time it was invented it has evolved into a more exciting and challenging media games of all time. The technological advancement has made it even more exciting for the players to religiously play and challenge themselves of what are the things in store for them while they are playing. The graphics and sound effects fascinate its audience, as if they are really there in the setting of the situation, especially those three dimensional computer machines which are seen mostly in computer arcades. The ability of the player to control and maneuver the situation made it more even exciting. Violent video games have been one of the most sought themes among the players. But with the increasing number of people engaged into this computer games, a lot of issues has also been raised, as to the negative effect and the benefit of these violent video games to children and young adults. This essay will argue that violent video games do have a negative effect on children.
Early experiments using physiological measures of arousal such as: galvanic skin response, heart rate and respiratory changes found that children are emotionally responsive to even animated television violence. The effects of violent video games on young adult’s arousal levels and aggressive thoughts have been measured. Results indicated that college students who had played virtual reality game had a higher heart rate and exhibited more aggressive thoughts in a post test, than those who played a non-violent game (Grossman & DeGaetano 70-71). These physiologic changes stimulate the sympathetic system which creates excitement and this “good” feeling makes them to do it repeatedly.
Similarly, as cited in an article in AllPsych Journal entitled, The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children, The Academy of Pediatrics states “More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a ‘meaner and scarier’ place than it is” (Tompkins). According to Tompkins, if children become accustomed and believed that this violent behavior is acceptable and normal it will be hard to change that belief as they grow older. She also relates this to the study of domestic violence where in a person exposed to this violence tend to be either abused or abuser. She further explains this by citing the Columbine incident as an example, where in the two students, who committed a violent act are video fanatics. Their exposure to violence was linked to their violent act since both of them came from a good family. Moreover, “reward increases imitation” (Gentile 136). And this process of rewarding in computer games makes it more addicting because children tend to be reinforced when they are rewarded, which in psychology termed as “positive reinforcement” but this reward system in computer games defeats the true purpose of “positive reinforcement”, that good acts should be rewarded in order to reinforce the action, where as computer rewarding rewards its players after killing or defeating their opponent.
Furthermore, “Participation in violent video games cast a negative cloud over the children’s views of interpersonal interactions. One research revealed that preschoolers most likely experienced fear and anxiety when they saw bloodied victims and watched expressions of emotional distress in connection with the media’s constant showing of the events of September 11th and their aftermath” (Cantor, 2002). These experiences that are internalized by children, unconsciously affects their behavior, and when they are placed in situations similar to what they have seen, the child could become anxious and restless.
On the contrary there are opposing reaction from different sectors regarding this matter, the president of the Interactive Software Association, Doug Lowenstein stated, “I think the issue has been vastly overblown and overstated often by politicians and other’s who do not fully understand, frankly this industry. There is absolutely no evidence, none, that playing a violent game leads to aggressive behavior” (qtd in Bushman & Anderson 353). But how can we expect them to see the negative effect of these violent video games, well in fact what they mean is purely business. Likewise, Steven Johnson said: “The most debased forms of mass diversion-video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms-turn out to be nutritional after all (9). It is nutritional in the sense that learning comes along while playing these violent video games, such as mastery and control and hand-eye coordination. But this paper totally disagrees with this notion. There are more appropriate ways of learning these things, without jeopardizing the minds of these children of what is good and what is wrong, such as art camps, and other indoor and outdoor activities that utilizes the body, where in physical, psychological and emotional aspects are given importance, which builds friendship and the values of sportsmanship, as well as maintaining a healthy active body, which computer games don’t give. Furthermore, computer video games promote isolation, aggressive behavior and a sedentary life style by sitting long hours in front of these computers.
In conclusion, violent video game has a significant effect on children, not only on their behavior but also on their physiologic state as well as the emotional state – especially that of a vulnerable individual. The government sector should be more critical and sensitive on how to protect its citizen with this kind of media. Parent’s on the other hand, who have the first hand decision whether to buy this violent video games or not, since they are responsible in giving money or buying this for their children, and what ever decision they would take they should know the consequences of the possible effects of these materials to their children. And users of this video games should be reminded that everything in excess is not good.
Anderson, Craig A., and Brad J. Bushman. “Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Affect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior: a Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature.” Psychological Science 12.5 (2001): 353-359. Apr. 2008
Dr. Craig A. Anderson, a professor and chairman of Department of Psychology in Iowa State University. He is a distinguished professor and Director of the center for the study of violence. Most of his current researches focus on aggression especially on the potentially harmful effect of exposure to violent entertainment media. Dr. Brad J. Bushman, a professor in University of Michigan, has a PhD in social psychology in University of Missouri. His focuses are the consequences and causes of aggression. In this research, the authors used methods such as literature search literature, criteria for relevance, coding frame and meta-analytic procedures, to test if violent video games will result to increase aggression in children and young adult. They found out that after conducting the experiment using experimental and non-experimental designs, in both male and female, that it poses public health threat to children and youths including college individuals. Exposure is negatively associated with prosocial behavior, and the long term effect on the development of aggressive behavior is absolutely related to exposure to violent video games. This is in contrast to the study made by Tompkins in 2003, which shows no proof that signifies either negative or positive effect of media violence. It is important in this research as it illuminates the side taken by this paper.
Cantor, Joanne. “The Psychological Effects of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents.” Joannecantor. 19 Apr. 2002. HEC Montreal. 19 Apr. 2008 <http://www.joannecantor.com/montrealpap_fin.htm>.
Joanne Cantor is an expert on the effects of the mass media on youth. A Professor Emerita and Director of the Center for Communication Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a well-known expert on children and the mass media. Joanne Cantor and her associates have conducted a program of research to explore developmental differences in media-induced fright reactions based on theories and findings in cognitive development. This study illustrates the effects of media events and images are less bothering on older children, where as other things become potentially more upsetting. This gives another highlight to the side taken by this research that there is a significant negative effect on the part of the children.
Gentile, Douglas A. “Media Violence and Children: a Complete Guide for Parents and Professionals”. London: Praeger Publications, 2003.
Douglas Gentile, a known developmental psychologist and a research director for the National Institute on Media and the Family. He conducts many researches about children and adult. In this book, he contends that learning comes from repetition. The fact that the violent games require violent acts to be played over and over again creates an ideal learning situation. But what the players are learning is antisocial behavior and the idea that violence is a good way to resolve conflict. He used data from other books, studies made by different authors, and other references in order to come up with a book that serves as guideline for parents and professional with regards to the effect of media violence to children. One important insight was when he said that the difference between television and computer games when it comes to the response of the individual is that violence in televisions are rarely sustained, because of commercial gaps and changing of scenes, in contrast to video games where violence is continuous. Where in players should always be alert for hostile enemies and must constantly choose and enact aggressive behaviors, exposing children to continual stream of violent scene. In contrast with the book of Grossman and DeGaetano, where in the authors were more subjective of the subject matter; by trying to make a call and make action on media violence, Douglas A. Gentile showed neutrality on the issue and focused more on how to guide parents and professionals decide on the issue after presenting the data’s.
Grossman, Dave, and Gloria Degaetano. “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: a Call to Action Against TV, Movie & Video Game Violence”. First ed. New York: Crown, 1999.
LT. Col. Dave Grossman, who is a retired US Army and a professor of military science in Arkansa State University. He is the author of On Killing: Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, and specialized in the study of psychology of killing, which he called “killology.” Gloria DeGaetano is a known educator in the field of media violence, and the author of Screen Smarts: A Family Guide To Media Literacy. The authors, used data’s from different resources: books, journals, researches of different authors, in order to come up with a book which calls for an action against T.V.., movie and video game violence… The book talks about different factors as to the effect of media violence on children. They are very much concern of the negative effects of this violence in media as well as video games to children. They presented in their book the negative effects of media violence to society, that in reality there are a lot of children and teenagers engage themselves into violent acts, and the disadvantages that this gives to the individual, their family and the society. This research used this book, because it gives a distinct description on what this paper is trying to point out, that there is significant negative effect on the child’s behavior, it does not only gave comprehensive details, but the insights of the authors made it more meaningful.
Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad is Good for You. Canada: Riverhead Books, 2005.
Steven Johnson, who is a well-known author Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, and a distinguish writer in New York, put emphasis on his book that violence on television and video games are not really bad for children. For the author, the kind of education that video games are giving is not learned in classroom situations or cannot be seen in museums. There are benefits in playing violent computer games. He wants to tell the reader that the learning in computer games enhances cognitive faculties, not dumbing them down. In his book, he made comparison between reading books and playing video games. According to him, reading books or novels enhance our imagination, while playing video games help you to choose the right decision by evaluating facts, examining situation, and by considering your long term goals. In contrast with the study made by Bushman and Anderson and that of Joanne Cantor, where in the two believed that there is significant negative effect of violent video games on children.
Tompkins, Aimee. “The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children.” AllPsych Journal (2003). 20 Apr. 2008 <http://allpsych.com/journal/violentmedia.html>.
Aimee Tompkins used the reports of the studies made by the Academy of Pediatric Society, The National Coalition on Television violence and cited stories where in violent video game fanatics were involved in shooting incidents and killing people, in order to assess the psychological effects of violent media on children. After presenting and analyzing the studies made, the author concluded that there was no proof either positive or negative long term outcomes of violent media and that parent’s should pay more attention on the activities of their children. In contrast on the result of the study made by Bushman & Anderson, that there is a significant effect on the behavior of children by increasing their aggression. This study was given importance in this essay because it gave another perspective on the issue discussed.