Friday, March 4, 2011

Does Playing Video Games Cause Aggression in Kids?

Parents are understandably worried when their kids play video games that have violent themes for fear these games could make their kids more aggressive. In one study, researchers scanned the brains of children after they played a violent video game and found decreased activity in areas of the brain associated with self-control - as well as increased emotional arousal.

Do Video Games Cause Aggression in Children?

New research published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence may ease some of these concerns. When researchers looked at 302 Hispanic boys and girls, they found that neither playing video games nor watching violent television were predictors of future violence or aggression. But kids who were antisocial, especially those with depressive symptoms, were more likely to be violent or aggressive after playing these games. Overall, for the average child, playing these games had little effect.

What does this mean for parents? At least in this study, kids who play video games or watch violent television are not more likely to be violent or aggressive with the exception of kids who have antisocial personalities or who are depressed.

Video Games Don’t Cause Aggression: Should You Believe It?

Of course, this is only one study, and it was limited since only Hispanic youth were studied. Other research has reached differing conclusions about whether video games cause violence in kids. A meta-analysis looking at twenty years of studies on violence and video games found kids who played violent video games were more aggressive immediately after playing them, although it was short-lived.

One problem in exploring whether video games cause aggression in children is there are so many types of video games available. It’s possible that some of the more graphic video games with aggressive and violent themes make kids more aggressive while others may not. It could also depend on the age of the child playing it. Younger kids may be more likely to act out violent themes, because they lack the socialization and ability to distinguish between right and wrong that an older child does. Younger kids are also more impressionable.

Most disturbingly, these games may actually de-sensitize kids to violence and make it appear acceptable to shoot at people or kick someone in the face using a karate move they learned on a video. When 80% of video games have a violent or aggressive theme in one form or other, kids may see violence as being okay and may have a hard time differentiating the fantasy of television and video from reality.

Do Video Games Cause Aggression: The Bottom Line?

Although this study was meant to reassure parents, the issue of whether video games cause violence is still on the table. At the very least, there are more constructive ways for kids to spend their time than staring at a computer screen and shooting at imaginary characters with their mouse.

References: “Does Game Violence Make Teens Aggressive?”

J. Youth Adolesc. 2010, December 14. “Do Violent Games Lead to Violent Behavior?”

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