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marcsinger's avatar

Can violent video games be cathartic for children?

Asked by marcsinger (5 points ) June 19th, 2012

My children love video games, including war games. I’m concerned that the games may encourage violent behavior. However, some say that violent games are cathartic—people get out their aggression by playing them, and then they’re more peaceful and content afterwards. Is that true? Is there evidence to prove this?

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15 Answers

tedd's avatar

There have been studies done, but to my knowledge they are inconclusive at best.

I’ve played my share of violent video games in my life, and I’ve never really had any violent outbursts. Video games alone will never be the cause of a child becoming violent. Parenting and a litany of other influences will also effect, and have much greater effects.

digitalimpression's avatar

It’s hard for me to imagine violent video games causing someone to be violent. Growing up.. during some of the roughest times of my life.. video games were a pleasant distraction from reality.

The problem with video games is they can tend to be too…. anesthetic.

bookish1's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

Running around and playing make believe is cathartic for children.

I’m pretty young and I am quite honestly very glad that my parents did not allow me to play graphic violent video games until I was 16 or so. And even then, I was not interested in super realistic/gorey stuff and still am not. I wouldn’t want to become used to stuff like that.

I think that video games along with movies can desensitize children to violence and the suffering of others. It seems reasonable to me that what you inundate yourself with every day will become part of your mental world and seem ‘normal’.

wundayatta's avatar

People like to be intensely involved in a task. They like to get an adrenaline rush. They like to find they are safe afterwards.

There are many different ways to get adrenaline rushes. Violence does it. Horror movies are good at it. Video games can make it happen. But so can love stories. Any kind of tension can make us feel it vicariously.

Tension and release. Tension and release. I would say it could be cathartic. But also getting your adrenaline going a lot can turn you into an adrenaline junkie where you need greater and greater thrills in order to achieve the same excitement level. Better to have sufficient time in between so that the previous level of excitement does it again, I think.

Getting out aggression, though, is another story. I’ve heard that releasing aggression may not be the best approach. It is better to learn other coping mechanisms: ways of letting go and relaxing. Again, expressing aggression can make you want more rather than releasing it. It can make you get high on the adrenaline and used to using aggression to get high. You can become ill equipped to let go of your anger, since you like holding onto it in order to get your adrenaline high.

So I would be careful about violence. I’d be careful about allowing a child to do something compulsively or obsessively. I think moderation is necessary. In moderation, it is manageable. But if one learns to do something over and over and over without end, one is setting oneself up to learn obsessive and addictive patterns of behavior.

jonsblond's avatar

My sons are 18 and 20 and grew up playing all types of video games. They are not violent and never have been. In fact, all of their friends parents tell us how well behaved and sweet our sons are. The kids my sons grew up with in school who were violent had some sort of family issue involved such as alcoholism, abuse or neglect. Video games and gory movies didn’t cause their violent behavior.

I’d like to add that I grew up watching 80s horror flicks and I have never had violent tendencies. I’m very caring and was never desensitized by the movies I chose to watch. The movies were entertainment, nothing more. (maybe an excuse to cuddle with a boyfriend, but that’s it)

I know I’m only giving you my personal experience. Our family may be the exception, but we are obviously doing something right.

Trillian's avatar

From the studies I’ve read, the theory that allowing people to act out violence in cintrolled circumstances as a “vent” whether in video games or other outlets, it did not “siphon off” the anger to manageable levels. Rather it exacerbated and intensified the anger, reduced control, and escalated subsequent violent actions.

GladysMensch's avatar

All I know is I never jaywalked ‘til I started playin’ Frogger.

YARNLADY's avatar

If a child is going to be aggressive and has violent tendencies, it is likely the games will intensify that, rather than be cathartic.

For most children, there is likely to be no noticeable affect.

Thammuz's avatar

No more than reading lord of the rings will make them more likely to go walk cross country to deliever jewelry. If they had that tendency, it’s probably going to come out sooner or later anyway.

Coloma's avatar

I don’t know of “cathartic” is the word. What did children do B.V.G. before video games?
I suppose violent video games are preferable to shooting the neighborhood cats and squirrels and Sparrows with a BB gun. Personally I think the video game addiction of the younger generation is unhealthy. Sure, play some games but if you want “cathartic” get your ass outside and MOVE to release your stress.

minnie19's avatar

I used to play tekken A LOT when I was younger and I’m a girl. I think what you are saying might be true. Just know that it has no harm!

majorrich's avatar

One of my son’s games was so realistic I had some minor PTSD reactions to it.

jerv's avatar

Overall, studies that show that video games lead to violence have either been inconclusive, or discredited. However, I have not seen any evidence (empirical or otherwise) that they are cathartic either.

Speaking from personal experience, I was short-tempered before video games existed, and shooting things on the screen has neither improved nor worsened that aspect of my personality. The only difference is that my aim is better ;)

DeanV's avatar

As far as I’m concerned, if a child becomes violent because of a video game, that’s the fault of the parent for a) allowing them to play the game and b) failing to communicate the huge difference between video game violence and real life violence.

mowens's avatar

I have played almost every violent video game that has come out since I was in first grade. (1990ish) I feel as though it has desensitized me to fake violence. I can watch any TV show, video clip, or whatever about fake violence. I can watch blood squirt out of a guy in ER. I enjoy violent video games, and violent movies.

I do not however, like guns, blood, or any kind of injuries in real life. I saw a guy get hit by a car recently… he was a little banged up but otherwise fine. I tried to chase after the car… but I was on foot, and intoxicated. I was appauled at the violence that had taken place.

Yet, I can turn around and play Grand Theft Auto for hours on end.

It is all in parenting. As long as the child understands that there is a difference between reality and their virtual worlds.

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