General Question

cdwccrn's avatar

Does playing violent video games make a child more likely to act out violently?

Asked by cdwccrn (3610points) October 24th, 2008 from iPhone

I think I remembered an old study that showed that to be true, but don’t know if it was disproven.

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25 Answers

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Only if the parents use the TV/video games as a babysitter for the child. Bad parenting is to blame if a child plays violent video games and thus reacts violently to things in reality.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I could rant for hours about this and how its an asinine way of thinking, but i wont. To answer your question, NO, no it doesn’t.

EDIT: here, read this

tocutetolive90's avatar

i could go on and on about this too, but i will say no it doesnt

cdwccrn's avatar

I have been careful about what my 11 year old has been exposed to, but now he likes Need for Speed and military games, though he does not play them for long hours. This won’t warp his fragile young soul, I take it. Great news. Thanks.

Hobbes's avatar

There has never been any evidence whatsoever showing a causal link between violent video games and violence in children. In cases in which video games were scapegoated (like the Columbine Massacre), those who commited the violent acts were already extremely unstable.

The same arguments were made against role-playing games, against the theatre, and against movies. There isn’t a shred of reliable data to back any of it up, as far as I know. There is also considerable evidence to the contrary – look at Japan, with (if I remember correctly) one of the lowest violent crime rates of any country and one of the highest concentrations of violent video games and disturbing horror movies.

In fact, many think that violence in theatre, movies or video games is actually healthy, cathartic release of aggression, meaning that there may in fact be an inverse relationship between real violence and violence in video games.

Emilyy's avatar

I don’t have any chil’rens, but I think if I did, my concern wouldn’t be about them playing a violent game and in turn acting out violently. I don’t think that a child nor an adult would say, Wow, look at all that violence. You know what sounds good right now? Committing an act of violence! Then again, some people might be slightly more disposed to violent behavior, so for those folks, maybe observing a lot of violence would encourage them.

My concern, instead, would be that they might get desensitized to violence and the line between fact and fiction might begin to blur a little too much.

But there’s violence everywhere—in movie trailers, on commercials, on the news. Video games are just the tip of the iceberg.

asmonet's avatar

I’ve played video games of all sorts since I was six or so and I think the idea that there even might be a correlation is ridiculous.

If anything I learned things from strategy games, about time and resource management. That’s my opinion anyhow.

Warcraft FTW!
Stop clicking me.

jrpowell's avatar

I played a lot of Leisure Suit Larry when I was in my teens.

Nimis's avatar

Leisure Suit Larry!
Geez, haven’t thought of that in forever.

skord's avatar

Only the violent video games that Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot played as children should be considered dangerous.

Hobbes's avatar

@EmilyNathon – I think something that should be considered is the difference between real violence and movie or video game violence. They are two entirely different worlds, and though splatter films may desensitize you to the gore in movies, real injuries will still freak most people out.

critter1982's avatar

@Hobbes: Referencing your earlier comment, “There has never been any evidence whatsoever showing a causal link between violent video games and violence in children.”

Simply google , kid killed playing mortal kombat. A ton of hits referencing mortal kombat and ties to young children acting out violently.

With that said though, no I don’t think it is video games that make kids violent. I think there is typically an inherent violence to a kids personality if he acts out in a violent way representing a video game. Video games don’t make kids violent but they give already violent children ideas and thoughts on how to act out violently. All of us have left a movie and wanted to be that particular actor you saw driving 150 mph down the road doing donuts or Jackie Chan kickin some @$$, but typically as you get older you mature and understand the difference between Hollywood and reality. Young children don’t always understand that line.

As long as my children didn’t show violent tendencies I wouldn’t hesitate in allowing them to play violent games. If they did show these tendencies though, I doubt I would allow my children to engage in these games.

Hobbes's avatar

Critter – in reference to the “kid killed with mortal kombat moves” case, the perpetrators appear to have been extremely unstable already. The simple fact that a sixteen and seventeen year old decided to beat a seven-year old they were supposed to be babysitting demonstrates how unstable they already were. The problem is that all the “evidence” is a perfect demonstration of correlation without causation. Nearly all American teenagers play video games, some teenagers commit violent crime, and thus many teenagers who commit violent crimes play video games, but this does not mean that there is a link between the two.

Perhaps you’re right, and video games “give people ideas”, but they’re hardly the murder simulators people sometimes make them out to be. Your average fighting game has about as much to do with real combat as Pokemon does with owning a pet. It sounds to me like two stupid, mean kids got drunk and decided to do something disgusting, and it strikes me as cheap and reprehensible that the attention is put on “the evils of video games” rather than the actions of the pair. Why is this the focus of all the articles about it? Because video games are an easy target, and because people get worked up over supposed links between violence and games.

And really – do you think two kids insane enough to beat up a nine year old girl wouldn’t have done something awful sooner or later, whether or not their particular source of “inspiration” came from Mortal Kombat?

critter1982's avatar

@Hobbes: I absolutely agree with you in that violent video games do not make children violent and my mortal kombat examples was just one scenario in which kids acted out something they had seen in the video game. There are others as well. My concern though is for those violent children who do play these games, and who don’t understand the line between right and wrong because their parents weren’t very good parents.

I’m not sure I can answer your question though, “do you think two kids insane enough to beat up a nine year old girl wouldn’t have done something awful sooner or later, whether or not their particular source of “inspiration” came from Mortal Kombat?”?

Maybe, maybe not. I do think though anything we can do to save 1 persons life is worth it. If that means reducing video game violence if that were to become known that these games do cause violence then I would be for it.

Hobbes's avatar

The point was, though, that the kids were violent in the first place. “Mortal Kombat” seemed to have no more to do with their actions than, say, watching a wrestling match would. It looks to me like what needs to be focused on is the real roots of violence in American society, not the easy target of video games.

Magnus's avatar

I don’t think it has any influence on your kid. If your kid has violent tendencies, s/he won’t become more violent playing video games nor less violent.

Bluefreedom's avatar

Although many video games these days have suggestive themes, behaviors, and languages, I’d have to say that just playing them doesn’t automatically make a person mimic what they have seen or want to act out in a violent fashion. This may not be true in every case but I’d guess it is with a majority of children/teens.

I think parenting is an important factor in rearing adolescents and it is incumbent upon the parents to monitor the material that their children/teens experience whether it is in movies, video games, television, or life experiences. Good communication and proper upbringing is the most essential factors, in my humble opinion.

deaddolly's avatar

No, no, and NO! Just like listening to Manson doesn’t make you go out and kill yourself or someone else. Children learn more from parents (or should). Values/morals instilled early on in life.

it’s just like the argument of today’s cartoons vs the old cartoons that were more violent. Just cause I watched the Road Runner, doesn’t mean I drop boulders on ppl’s heads for a laugh.

Evol's avatar

Yes. Seeing violence makes a child more violent. They did a study with a group of kids – some watched power rangers, some did not, those who did were more likely to kick and punch during the monitored play afterward. Children are mimics.
Also – the existence of mirror neurons means that when we see a human or the representation of a human doing something – the same pathways as if we were doing it are activated in the brain. When kids watch violent tv or play violent games – their brains are lighting up like they are committing the violence themselves.
BTW – France just banned TV programming for kids under 2, and the American pediatrics ass. agrees.

deaddolly's avatar

@Evol So why am I not violent then? I was brought up on old cartoons, the 3 stooges, WWF and horror movies. While I love gore and horror, I have never stuck or done any violent act to anyone in my entire life.

I don’t care what studies have been done; it’s the value system that you are raised with. Yes, children are mimics. Abused sometimes become abusers, but not because they saw it on tv. That’s bs.

My daughter watched Sesame Sstreet when she was little. We watched it together sometimes; it taught her a lot of things that I expanded on.
So, yeah if you watch power rangers and you parents think its cool to zap someone, you may grow up that way. And you might have the common sense not to.

Evol's avatar

Whether or not upbringing can intervene in the development of violent tendencies is not in dispute. It can. The question was will playing violent video games make a child MORE LIKELY to act out violently. The answer is – yes, it will. Children have a tendency to do exactly what they see on TV or in videogames.
Also, some people who claim to abuse because they were abused, are lying. It’s become an easy and societally known “excuse,” for being an abuser.
It sounds like you are a good parent and probably had parents who were involved in your life, like you are involved in your daughters. Not everyone is so lucky. Many children fend for themselves morally and don’t have parents to intervene in the development of violent behaviors. You did. That is why you are not violent.

Hobbes's avatar

Evol – the problem with those studies is that they don’t differentiate between imagined “play” violence and actual violence. The study suggests that “violence” among the study group increases, but that’s not what we see. There isn’t an increase in fights among children who watch power rangers (as I understand the data), there’s an increase in play that mimics what they just saw.

That is, the kids are copying power rangers moves, but they aren’t actually beating each other up – they’re playing. There’s a big difference between a real fight and the kicks and punches kids do at recess while pretending to be power rangers, just as there’s a difference between making a “gun” with your hand while going “pew pew pew” and actually shooting someone.

nikipedia's avatar

Does violent media cause people to act violently? No.
Does violent media contribute to people acting violently? Probably.

Compare, for the sake of argument, two extremes:

1. A child raised in an environment with constant exposure to movies and video games that depict violence, gore, murder, etc. (Consider also that the video game is not as passive, like a movie—you are actively rewarded for committing acts of imagined violence.)

2. A child raised in an environment with no exposure whatsoever to similar violence.

I think it is reasonable to assume that, all other things being equal, child 1 would be less horrified by real-world violence, more accepting of real-world violence, and possibly, when faced with an extreme situation, more inclined to use real-world violence.

But I hate all this guesswork. So here’s what the science says (and note, these were not cherry-picked—these are the top hits from google scholar):

“Adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more frequently, were more likely to be involved in physical fights, and performed more poorly in school.”–4BF0D7T-1&_user=4422&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000059600&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=4422&md5=e35f7bc00ea859c1f652967416613d06

“Research on exposure to television and movie violence suggests that playing violent video games will increase aggressive behavior. A meta-analytic review of the video-game research literature reveals that violent video games increase aggressive behavior in children and young adults. Experimental and nonexperimental studies with males and females in laboratory and field settings support this conclusion. Analyses also reveal that exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal and aggression-related thoughts and feelings. Playing violent video games also decreases prosocial behavior.”

”...all the published studies on video game violence have methodological problems and that they only include possible short-term measures of aggressive consequences. The one consistent finding is that the majority of the studies on very young children—as opposed to those in their teens upwards—tend to show that children do become more aggressive after either playing or watching a violent video game.”–3V8C7YH-6&_user=4422&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=4422&md5=604bf1d11628da129dfc295b8b9ed96b

“An updated meta-analysis reveals that exposure to violent video games is significantly linked to increases in aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, and cardiovascular arousal, and to decreases in helping behaviour. Experimental studies reveal this linkage to be causal. Correlational studies reveal a linkage to serious, real-world types of aggression. Methodologically weaker studies yielded smaller effect sizes than methodologically stronger studies, suggesting that previous meta-analytic studies of violent video games underestimate the true magnitude of observed deleterious effects on behaviour, cognition, and affect.”–4B9D74R-1&_user=4422&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000059600&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=4422&md5=fa3db762bcc9498f1af2b7ff839223e6

Hobbes's avatar

@Niki – I’d never heard of those studies, and officially retract my “there has never been any evidence whatsoever” statement.

However, there still seem to be some significant issues with said evidence. First: how were the studies controlled? To me, it would seem to be almost impossible to isolate video game violence exposure as a contributor to the child’s behavior. So many other factors could come into play that might contribute to violent behavior.

Second: how do they define “aggression”? As I mentioned earlier, a study could point to kids play-fighting and label it “aggression” when it is nothing of the sort.

Third: Most of these studies apparently fail to differentiate between in-game pseduo-violence and real-world violence. For example: I have seen countless gory death scenes and played many first-person shooters. I don’t react to these scenes because I know that they’re fake, that the enemies I’m shooting are just AIs, and because the violence as depicted in games is almost always a far cry from the real thing. If I saw someone actually get shot, I can assure you that my reaction would be much different than it is to a video-game death. This suggests that our while our brains may become desensitized to video game violence, we are still sensitive to real-world violence. Put any devoted player of video games in a warzone and you’ll see what I mean.

deaddolly's avatar

i used to love the game that you chased pedestrians down to kill them.
I’m not violent

I still say NO.

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