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ViolentVideo Games and Children Behavior Problems

Overthe last few decades, the use of computers in the offices and homeshas increased greatly, becoming a household item. Currently, almostevery home in the US has access to at least one computer, and morethan 95 percent of all people aged above seven years have at least abasic workingknowledge of computer applications. The computer erahas come with numerous benefits, and without doubt, these benefitsgreatly outweigh all negative aspects that computer usage may bringwith it. One area in which a bone of contention lay with regard toadoption of computers ( be they the mainstream personal computers ordedicated computing platforms such as consoles, play stations andgaming modules) is the computer or video games area, especially withregard to children development (Anderson, Gentile, and Buckley 5).

Numerousstudies conducted with regard to children use of computers haveindicated that children gain in various ways through the use ofcomputers in daily activities. In particular, children stand tobenefit greatly in terms of developing problem solving skills whenthey play games on computers and play stations (Anderson et.al 6). Inaddition, children boost their thought cycles through the engagementin games requiring routine management skills and speed. In addition,playing games as well as other interactions on a graphics userinterface help children develop spatial and cognitive skills that aidtheir development, often speeding up the rate of maturity, and theage at which they can articulate issues. However, the engagement ofchildren in computer and video games is also a major contributor ofchildren behavior change that tends toward aggression (Kutner &ampOlson 16). A study conducted to reveal the aggression pattern inchildren is as follows.

(Carnagey&amp Anderson 11)

Thesituation here involves exposure to violent activities as portrayedin video games and other computer user interfaces. The person depictsthe children. The transformative cycle involves a loop of cause andeffect, rotating between cognition, arousal and affect. What thechild does during the game affects what they think and rationalize intheir thought processes, and this affects their identity. The outcomeof these actions involves a combination of factors, but is mainlyshaped by appraisal of the thoughts so held. If children can getsupport from external sources, such as game developers, thataggression is a way to get what one wants, then it becomes ingrainedin their decision processes. Consequently, this thought process ismanifested later when a child interacts with others in a socialsetting. This social interaction may happen impulsively or through adedicated, contemplated action course. Either way, the outcome isthat aggressive behavior is likely to be evident during a child’ssocial interaction’s after watching ( and even more likely afterparticipating in) violent game activities (Carnagey &amp Anderson13).

Criticshave stated that the majority of video games have very little andshort lived effect on children, and that they do not have thecapacity for long term cognitive affect on children, stating thatinstead, children are much more likely to be behaviorally affected bytheir role models in society such as parents and peers. Studies,however, have shown that long term exposure of children to videobased violence continuously builds a foundation of aggression insocial interactions, and that the correlation is even stronger thanthat between passive tobacco intake and lung cancer, or that betweenlead intake and mental health problems in children (Bushman, 481).

Anotherpresent and long-held criticism is that children violence as a resultof video-game activities as a study area has always used across-sectional approach, and that no longitudinal researches havebeen used to find causative truth. A longitudinal approach wouldessentially imply subjecting children to violent video games andrelated activities throughout their young adult lives in order toobserve possible effects of this in their later lives. Such a processwould be very involving at the least, and would have to happen in avery controlled setting in order to ensure that any behavior changesare as a result of video games and not based on any other exposure.This would be, to say the least, cruel and condemning to thesubjects. In any case, the fact that critics already agree there is ashort term (however short) effect of video game violence on real lifeaggression changes in children is proof enough that they affect themnegatively.

Theissue of violence content in new videogames is likely to rise withtime, not decline. The original video games made two decades ago wereless on violence and more on creativity. However, the age of violencein games was initiated by the creation of such games as MortalKombat, Star Wars and Star Trek among others. This trend hasprogressively risen. A study on newer games such as Nintendo as wellas Sega Genesis revealed an above 80% action that would beclassifiable as violent to the average child user, and that half ofthe games that seventh and eighth grade players liked had violence inthem (Dietz, 431). There was established a direct causal link betweenthese preferred game activities and a child’s tendency towardsviolence. The rate of tendency towards aggressive behavior ishighest during social activities immediately following a child’sinvolvement in a violent video game, and tends to reduce with timeprovided that no subsequent exposure is allowed. However, the levelof aggression towards others was observed to be significantlydifferent between children who were regularly exposed to violentvideo games and those not at all exposed to these games. Therefore,residual effects of violent game participation on children stillplayed a significant part in their later development, setting themapart from those children who were not exposed to violent video gameactivities.

Across argument presented with regard to the long term effect ofcomputer games is that they helps a child’s self esteem throughidentification with heroic characters, a factor which helps themboost their ego and develop a healthy, strong personality. Thisargument is indeed true, but only in an era where violence incomputer games is non-existent. Otherwise, the heroic trendspresented for the youngsters to copy will also be with regard withapplying violence and aggression to gain what one wants or generallyholds as moral. In an era where it has been proved both that videogame sales are rising (currently surpassing movie sales) andpercentage of all video games produced today with violent encountersare rising, it can only be expected that exposure of underage personsto video violence will rise, and any associated behavior aggressiontrends will also rise.

Anotherpoint of argument for many critics is with regard to the agreeabledefinition of violent activity in games. Many contenders of thepositive contribution of mainstream video games to childrendevelopment say that there is no agreeable benchmark on violence,since what may appear as violent to one child may appear perfectlynormal to another, depending on such variables as sex of player, age,and environment in which child is brought up. Introducing suchvariables, among others not stated, agreeably makes definition ofviolent activity hard to achieve. Therefore, basing only on thisargument, video game designers would have very limited scope ofdevelopment. This fact is further worsened by the contemporary movieand television programs, which rival video games in terms of violentactivity exposure of children. Therefore, it is argued, even if videogames were non-existent, mainstream television would still havesimilar effects on children because, after all, most of the famousvideo-games in market today are based on existing movies, or theirunderlying themes. The problem with this argument is that it is notdenying the existence of video violence, but merely disputing itsthreshold. The truth, however, is that video violence does actuallyhave a threshold, it does exist in both the TV and gaming worlds, andit does affect young viewers or users. The threshold is that point atwhich the action of a child towards self, others, or towards objects,if taken outside the context of play, would cause any bodily, socialor psychological harm to the recipient. It involves destruction ofitems, physical assault to self or others, as well as usage of wordsor tone likely to harass, intimidate, or traumatize the recipient,where such behavioral can be traced directly or indirectly to be as aresult of watching or participating in a video game. It lacks auniversal threshold but is nonetheless real, and can be controlled.


Theissue of video game violence, and its effect on children, is real andprogressing. It is not enough to state only the benefits of childreninvolvement in video games in their personal and interpersonaldevelopment. While it is agreed that such games do have numerousbenefits of the type stated above, it is also important to recognizethe present danger in the society of the proliferation of childviolence and aggressive behavior, especially as this rising trendseems to have a positive correlation with increasing access toviolence based children video games.


AndersonCraig, Gentile Douglas A. and Buckley Katherine E. ViolentVideo Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, andPublic Policy: Theory, Research, and Public Policy.Oxford University Press, 2006

BushmanBJ, Anderson CA, Media Violence and the American Public: Scientistfacts versus media misinformation. AmPsychol2001 56:477-89

Carnagey,N. &amp Anderson, C., Violent Video Games Exposure and Aggression-ALiterature Review, MINERVAPSICHIATR2004 45:1-18.

Dietz,T.L. An examination of violence and gender role portrayals in videogames: Implications for gender socialization and aggressive behavior.SexRoles(1998) 38: 425-42

KutnerLawrence &amp Olson Cheryl. GrandTheft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games andWhat Parents Can Do.Simon and Schuster, 2008