Many moms and dads (including myself) have concerns over whether gaming is actually safe for our kids and their well-being. So many tweens and teens are seemingly addicted to video games. Parents are wondering the impact they have on their child’s behavior. Specifically, does it make your kid more aggressive and less aware of what is right and wrong?
Video Game Violence Studies
My son loves playing video games. But he gets very irritable and anxious if I let him play too long and then take it away. For this reason, I do not allow him to play anything violent. I don’t think he can handle it based on his level of agitation from playing non-violent games.
My son’s behavior around video games is not uncommon. A recent international study looked at more than 17,000 adolescents, ages nine to 19 from 2010 to 2017. According to a study conducted by researchers at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, violent video games are having an effect on our children and “playing violent video games led to increased physical aggression over time.”
The study looked at kids in the United States, Canada, Germany and Japan who played violent games like “Grand Theft Auto,” “Call of Duty,” and “Manhunt.” It found that children who played these games regularly got in trouble more often for exhibiting aggressive behavior. Additionally, for “fighting or hitting a non-family member” while in school.
The lead author of the study, Jay Hull, associate dean of faculty for the social sciences at Dartmouth College. He is also a professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Hull said it is “clear that violent video game play is associated with subsequent increases in physical aggression.”
Dangers of Video Games: Physical Aggression
This is disturbing news for many parents (not to mention the kids who love playing). Gaming, after all, has become a favorite pastime among children and young adults. However, there is reason for more research and growing concern. New research echoes Hull’s previous finding “that playing violent games equates to about twice the risk of school staff sending that student to the principal’s office for fighting during an eight-month period.”
It is important to underscore there currently is no evidence at this time to support the idea that violent video games increase the chances of kids getting involved in criminal violence. But Hull’s previous research suggests that video game players may practice riskier behaviors such as reckless driving, binge drinking, smoking and unsafe sex.
Hull notes while the change these games can have on kids is small. But he believes it does exist and parents need to be aware of it. According to Hull: “A lot of people ask, do these games really cause these kids to behave aggressively? I would say that is one possibility. The other possibility is that it’s a really bad sign. If your kids are playing these games, either these games have a warping effect on right and wrong or they have a warped sense of right or wrong, and that’s why they are attracted to these games. Either way you should be concerned about it.”
It’s important we pay attention to whatever our kids are doing online, gaming or not. If we notice a change in their behavior, sleeping habits, or we are getting calls from school about aggressive behavior, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at how they are spending their time online.