By: Aaron Fandel and Elliot Pototsky
As many as 97% of US kids age 12-17 play video games, and more than half of the 50 top-selling video games contain violence, according to procon.org. Violent video games have been blamed for school shootings, increases in bullying, and violence towards women.
While playing, the game rewards players for simulating violence, and demonstrates to children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts. A 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association,stated that habitual violent video game playing had a causal link with increased, long-term, unkind behavior.
Several peer-reviewed studies have shown that children who play M-rated games are more likely to bully and cyber bully their peers. They are also more likely to get into physical fights, be hostile, argue with teachers, and show aggression towards their peers throughout the school year.
Kids who are exposed to these games lack discipline, structure, and become more vulnerable to being violent. According to an article titled Well-Child Visits in the Video Age, made by the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 98% of pediatricians in the United States say that too much exposure to violent media heightens childhood aggression.
An article written by BBC News, said video games often require players to simulate violent actions, such as stabbing, shooting, or severing someone with an ax, sword, chainsaw, or other weapons. Two teenagers in Tennessee, who shot at passing cars and killed one driver, told police they got the idea from playing Grand Theft Auto III.
In 2013, an article sourced by foxnews.com stated that many mass shootings have also been carried out by avid video game players: James Holmes in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting; Jared Lee Loughner in the Arizona shooting that injured Rep. Gabby Giffords and killed six others; and Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway, and admitted to using the game Modern Warfare 2 for training.
According to theJournal of Experimental Social Psychology, just 20 minutes of playing a violent video game can cause people to become less emotionally aroused by real violence. People numb to real violence are more likely to commit a violent act. Studies have found reduced emotional responses to violence in both the long and short term. In a 2005 study, violent video game exposure was linked to reduced P300 amplitudes in the brain, which is associated with increases in aggressive behavior.
In a study of 150 fourth and fifth graders, done by University of Toledo Psychology Professor, Jeanne Funk, violent video games were the only type of media associated with lower empathy. A study published in the American Psychological Bulletin found that exposure to violent video games led to a lack of positive actions to help others.
Overall, if a minor plays a violent video game, would it really contribute to youth violence? Dr. Craig Anderson, Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University, wrote: “Playing a violent video game isn’t going to take a healthy kid who has few other risk factors and turn him into a school shooter, but it is a risk factor that does drive the odds for aggression up significantly.”
In the past decade, violent video games have been unjustly blamed for school shootings, bullying, and violence towards women.
Over 150 million Americans play video games, 71% of them are teens. There have been 71 mass shootings between 1982 and August 2015, seven of which involved shooters age 18 or younger. Katherine Newman, PhD, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, wrote: “Millions of young people play video games full of fistfights, blazing guns, and body slams… Yet only a minuscule fraction of the consumers become violent.”
A report by the US Secret Service and US Department of Education examined 37 incidents of targeted school violence between 1974 and 2000. Of the 41 attackers studied, 27% had an interest in violent movies, 24% in violent books, and 37% exhibited interest in their own violent writings, while only 12% showed interest in violent video games.
A peer reviewed study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health discovered that kids, specifically boys, play video games to manage their emotions. “61.9% of boys played to ‘help me relax,’ 47.8% because ‘it helps me forget my problems,’ and 45.4% because ‘it helps me get my anger out.” Researchers point out the cathartic effect of video games as the reason for why higher game sales have been associated with lower crime rates.
Statistics show that while sales of violent video games have skyrocketed, the juvenile crime rate has decreased significantly. Total US sales of video game hardware and software have increased 204% from 1994 to 2014, while violent crimes decreased 37% and murders by juveniles fell 76% in that same time period. The number of high school students who have been in at least one physical fight decreased form 43% in 1991 to 25% in 2013.
By age seven, children can distinguish fantasy from reality, and can see what is video game violence and what is real-world violence. Gamers know they are playing a game. Throughout childhood, kids see fantasy violence everywhere, from Harry Potter and Star Wars to SpongeBob and My Little Pony. The ability to identify fantasy from reality prevents them from mimicking video game violence in real life.
In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association(2011) the US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that California could not ban the sale of violent video games to minors. Justice Antonin Scalia said that the connections between video games and violence “have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video gamescauseminors to actaggressively.”
Video game advocates say that almost all of the research done against video games is flawed and that there is no correlation between video games and violence. According to an article, many studies failed to control for factors that contribute to children becoming violent, such as family history and mental health. Also, some video game experiments have people play a game for 10 minutes, which is not representative to the hours most gamers spend each day. According to Christopher J. Ferguson, PhD, a psychology professor at Stetson University, “matching video game conditions more carefully in experimental studies with how they are played in real life makes VVG’s [violent video games] effects on aggression essentially vanish.”