Do Violent Video Games Encourage Violent, Anti-social Tendencies in Children?

The computer game industry has recently seen a huge increase in revenue, surpassing both the music and video industries. For example, the industry had a market valuation of $100 million in 1985, but by 2013 it had grown to $93 billion. Violent video games, specifically First Person Shooters or FPS, are the most popular games among consumers. A technical innovation in gaming, such as the ability to play online, has been attributed to the rise of such games (Hollingdale and Greitemeyer, 1). Another factor is the availability of the games as they can be cheaply purchased at the local stores. How did the industry improve so fast? Where did it start? Before the 1980’s there were basic computer games that were commercially sold on coin-operated machines and home consoles. After the 1983 Video Game Crush in North- America, various companies that make video games such as the Nintendo Entertainment System came up with new methods to promote their games and from that time the industry has recorded a tremendous growth.
Studies show that playing video games has become prevalent in the life of an American child as statistics show that more than 90% of children in the U.S play video games. However, when focusing on adolescents aged between 12- 17, the number rises to 97%. Children below eight years spend an average of 69 minutes using handheld consoles, 57 minutes on computer games, and lastly 45 minutes on mobile games. Considering a large number of children playing video games and 85% of such games contain violence, there have been concerns about the effects of violent video games on individuals, especially children and adolescents (APA Taskforce, 1-2).
A lot of news commentators have linked violent video games to acts of mass homicides. According to the media, the main cause for such homicides is the perpetrator’s gaming habits which have been classified into two: either as a method of training or they have just chosen to commit the crimes. Examples of such crimes include the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 and the Washington Navy Yard massacre in 2013. Therefore, this coverage has a significant contribution to the public discussion about the effects of playing violent video games. As a result, measures have been taken to limit children’s use of violent video games and to educate parents about the effects what their children are being exposed. Additionally, there have been attempts to enact laws that limit the sales of such games to minors. Apart from encouraging violent and anti-social tendencies in children, violent video games have other adverse effects such as teaching wrong values, poor academic performance, and adverse effects on health.
Violent Video Games and Violent Tendencies
The debate over violent video games encourage violent tendencies among children has remained combative over the years. Some researchers like DeCamp say there is little evidence linking the two. On the other hand, others believe that when children are continually exposed to a lot of violent games, they will start reacting violently as compared to those who do not play such games.
Whitney DeCamp who is an associate professor of sociology (Western Michigan University) feels that no significant evidence connects playing violent video games and engaging in violent behavior. According to him, several studies that have been conducted using a variety of methods. Some studies done in the laboratory have found statistical associations of these games with short-term aggression and not violence per se (DeCamp, 296 – 304).
DeCamp researched by examining data from the 2008 Delaware School Survey. The data included responses from over 6,500 respondents, and one of the questions that these children were asked is if they played violent video games in the past one year. DeCamp reached the conclusion that those who find a relationship between violent video games and children’s behavior have a chance of being overstated as they are based on purely correlation research. Additionally, he did not find violent gaming being predictable in any violent behavior that was tested after using PSM to control the selection bias and using other predictors. In most models used, DeCamp found out that other social factors like violence at home, less monitoring by parents, and children having little or no emotional attachment with their parents were reliable predictors of violent behavior. He, therefore, concluded that the research failed to find a significant connection between video games and violence. Additionally, he noticed that the research was able to identify other factors that have stronger links to violence as compared to video games (DeCamp, 296 – 304).
DeCamp’s views are supported by Christopher Ferguson who is an associate professor and chairman of the psychology department (Stetson University). Ferguson even believes that violent video games reduce violence in the society instead of increasing it. The reason for such belief is that when people are kept busy with their hobbies which include playing violent video games, collecting stamps, or even engaging in sports, they are off the streets and out of trouble. He also added that recent studies with better research methods have failed to find much evidence that links such games with minor acts of aggression, leave alone violence (Scutti, par 11-14).
Additionally, a study was conducted by the Southern Economics Association which observed criminal offenses during the weeks following the release of favorite video games that contain violence since they are liked by many children and adolescents. The authors tracked sales of the video games and crime rates in the society. The authors discovered that widespread violence in the society reduced in the weeks that followed the release of a particular game that is popular. However, the study does not rule out long-term effects of the games. Additionally, they still make a bid for the games offering therapeutic effects which make the players release their aggression slowly (Appelbaum et al., 1247-1265).
The American Psychological Association (APA) has also joined the debate and argues that playing violent video games is linked to aggression. However, there is no sufficient evidence to link such games to criminal violence.
The APA task force published a report on 2013 that reviewed over a hundred studies on violent video games. The task force, therefore, concluded that playing violent video games might lead to the players having aggressive thoughts and behaviors while at the same time reducing understanding and responsiveness towards aggression. The task force also added that even though there are some studies which suggest playing violent video leads to changes in the brain and criminal violence, there was no evidence to establish a link between the three. Additionally, the agency feels that no single element can drive a person to become violent or aggressive hence the video games can be labeled as one risk factor. The agency also feels that there should be increased parental controls to reduce children’s exposure in such games (Appelbaum et al., 11-15)
With the debate still going on, Ferguson believes that things have recently changed as more people are becoming skeptic because they want enough prove that video games cause violence. Recently more than 230 scholars asked the American Psychological Association to withdraw its “obsolete and problematic statements about video game violence.” (Skutt, par 17)
Violent Video Games and Antisocial Behaviors
Studies on effects of violent video games have also been conducted. Dr. Tim Sandle conducted a study to see whether these games affect the player’s ability to be empathetic to others and they discovered that there is no impact. To do this, scientists from Germany used a magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate long-term players of video games. The brain scans were compared to non-players, and the two groups were asked to view the designed images so that they increase a response emotionally. It should be noted that each of the subject was male and by long-term use, the scientists mean those who have played the games for an average of two hours daily over a year. Additionally, the violent games here included “Call of Duty” and “Counterstrike.” The outcome of the scan was that both the two groups showed the same neural response. The reason for this research was to dispute the claims that playing violent video games for a long time reduces empathy of an individual hence making them lose their social touch to others (Sandle, par 1-10).
However, the studies are flawed as they only focus on short-term effects because when players are assessed immediately after a video game, they will show different results as compared to when they are evaluated hours later.
Another research was done by the Oxford University in 2014 showed that children who play violent video games for one hour or less in a day are more sociable, happier, and less hyperactive as compared to children that do not play the video games at all. This is one of the reasons why the games are seen to have a positive effect on the younger people. The researchers also said that the games helped the kids to challenge their brains by giving them problems to solve, giving them a way to relax, and finally give them an excuse to talk to their peers. As a result, those who play video games in less than an hour a day had more friends and had less emotional problems. In this research 5000 children (both boys and girls were observed) (Przybylski, 716-722).
However, the Oxford research team discovered that after a certain point, the law of diminishing returns is experienced. Children who dedicated more of their time (more than an hour) playing Zelda or Warcraft do not become sociable or happier. This is the time that the positive effects of gaming disappear. The more the children use their time in gaming, the more they become less sociable and depressed. Other research also supports this claim since gaming for excessive periods not only affects the child’s social life but also his her health as it also leads to problems like poor vision and bad posture, problems with attention and finally increases the risk of one being obese (Przybylski, 716-722).
From the various research conducted, several conclusions can be drawn. First, there are many effects that violent video games have on the children. These games have either long term or short term effects. Second, the games can cause both positive and negative effect effects on the player.
Playing violent video games for long hours encourage anti-social tendencies among the children as they will not go out to socialize with their peers. This will make them lack the necessary social skills for them to interact with their peers. On the other hand, children who played for short periods had a good social life as they also had something to talk about with their peers. On the other hand, when children play violent video games for a long time, they tend to copy what they see on the screen, this leads them to have violent behaviors as they will start harassing or bullying others. However, violent video games alone cannot make children violent because when children are well brought up, they will not become violent, no matter how many games they play. This is because a lot of children are playing such games, but they are not violent. With this, I feel that for violent video games to cause violent and anti-social tendencies in children, other factors such as duration of the games, the ways the child was brought up, or the children’s relationships with their parents must be put into consideration.

Works Cited
Appelbaum, Mark, et al. “American Psychological Association Task Force on Violent Media: Technical Report on the Review of the Violent Video Game Literature.” APA Task force on Violent Media, 2016.
Cunningham, Scott, et al. “Violent Video Games and Violent Crime.” Southern Economic Journal 82.4 (2016): 1247-1265.
DeCamp, Whitney. “Impersonal agencies of communication: Comparing the effects of video games and other risk factors on violence.” Psychology of Popular Media Culture 4.4 (2015): 296-304.
Hollingdale, Jack, and Tobias Greitemeyer. “The Effect of Online Violent Video Games on Levels of Aggression.” PLoS ONE 9.11 (2014): e111790,
Przybylski, A. K. “Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment.” Pediatrics 134. 3 (2014): e716-e722.
Sandle, Tim. “Violent Video Games Have No Effect on Antisocial Behavior.” Digital Journal: A Global Digital Media Network, 9 Mar. 2017, Accessed December 10, 2017.
Scutti, Susan. “Do Video Games Lead to Violence?” CNN, 26 July 2016, Accessed December 10, 2017.

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