A number of studies have been conducted to investigate the influence of violent video and computer games on children and the youth. This research paper seeks to discuss the findings of studies conducted on violent video games and how they influence youth violence and aggressiveness.
Although some of the research findings have revealed that there is negligible relationship between the two, a significant number of the studies have found a positive correlation between the playing of violent video games and negative behavior like aggression, bullying, fighting, and desensitization among the young people.
Researchers who condemn the playing of violent video games argue that children under the age of 12 are greatly influenced and the effects can be long-term. Concerning the teenagers and the older youth, negative impact especially on aggressive behavior is also reported. However, the researchers have identified some crucial limiting factors, especially on the youth.
They include; gender, age, and an individual’s level of education. These factors have been shown to play a central role when it comes to differentiating between the make-believe and real-life situation as far as violent video games are concerned. The research paper will conclude that a lot of research into violent video games and the youth need to be done in order to provide more evidence either for or against their use by the young adults.
The need to understand the causes of violence and aggression among the youth in the United States of America has been in existence for a long period of time now.
Meaningful research into this issue started over 50 years ago with most of the researchers depicting conflicting findings. In recent times, violent video games have been on researchers’, local presses’, and politicians’ spotlight as the main causes of the reported criminal violence perpetrated by young adults (Anderson, 2005).
This was triggered by the random shootings orchestrated by two youths, Lee Malvo and John Mohammad in Washington, DC. However, despite the overwhelming outcry against the youth playing violent video games, there are a number of researchers and advocates who oppose the idea of directly linking the exposure of young adults to violent scenes and their aggressive behavior.
For them, there is no conclusive evidence to support the idea apart from the unreliable and non-standardized ways of collecting and analyzing/interpreting data used by their opponents (Ferguson, 2007).
This section seeks to highlight some of the research findings conducted by various researchers. It aims to draw the line between those who advocate for the scrutiny of the type of video games which the youth are allowed to play and those who see no problem at all when youth play violent video games.
According to Anderson, Donnerstein, Johnson, & Wartella (2005), most American teenagers are significantly influenced by the violent video games they play. The findings of their study strongly support the idea of the negative impact as a result of exposing young people to violent video games. Bryant and Bryant (2003), on the other hand, investigated the impact of the violent video games on teenagers (15-19 years of age). They further sought to find out if inherent personality traits do determine the degree of the influence of playing the games.
The effects of the violent scenes from the various media sources and real-life situations have also been studied by Funk, Pasold & Heidi (2004). The results of their research reveal that continued exposure of children to violent scenes from televisions and playing of violent video games do greatly affect the children through their youth and adulthood. Moreover, Jonathan (2002) in his book explores the scientific evidence of the relationship between aggression and the playing of violent video games by the youth.
The findings of his investigations into the issue reveal that there is a positive correlation between aggressiveness and exposure to violent scenes either from video games, television programs, or movies. His conclusions were similar to those found later by Woodard & Gridina (2006).
However, arguments to the contrary have been advanced by other researchers like Stupak (2004). The advocates of violent video games claim that there are little or no negative effects of playing these games especially by the youth. Instead, they cite a number of positive effects of playing violent video games. Stupak argue that the games aid in the child’s development and provide an avenue for letting out anger especially by the youth instead of acting them out in real-life situations on their colleagues.
Other positive impacts of playing video games, according to the advocates, include but not limited to; therapeutic uses, training of hand-eye coordination, and simulation techniques for the older youth.
Ferguson (2007), a renowned researcher in modern time offers a tough critique of research findings conducted by those who advocate for the abolishing of violent video games among the youth. Recent research has revealed that there has been a systematic bias in the publication of research findings into violent video games and their effects on the youth by various public media outlets (Ferguson, 2007).
While researchers have come up with varying opinions concerning the effects of violent video games on the youth, it is important to note that a lot more needs to be done if the contestations on this topic are to be minimized if not eliminated.
Anti-Violent Video Games Findings
As mentioned in the earlier parts of this paper, considerable research has been conducted to validate the idea of the negative effects of violent video games among the youth.
The findings, however, have been faced with controversy and contestation. A research conducted by Gentile and Anderson (2003) revealed that aggressive thoughts and behavior manifestations increase considerably among the youth after they are exposed to violent video games, films, music, or television.
Some psychological theories advocate the observational learning and the researchers have cited these theories in supporting their arguments. The children are believed to learn by imitating what they encounter by perception/sight. The degree of the influence is believed to depend on individual differences (Woodard & Gridina, 2006).
According to Anderson et. al., there is a positive correlation between youth violence and violent video games. They investigated American youth and their individual reaction to violent images on television, and the abstract violent scenes in video games. Most reported being disturbed by games depicting acts of terrorism and nuclear war especially by the thought of what would happen if it was to occur in real-life.
A number of them have been influenced by the violent video games and believe that it is a means of reacting to some situations in life. More than half of those investigated, according to the research findings, confessed to having ever thought of acting them out in real life. The tendency to act out what had been seen was reported mainly by the male participants. In their book, Gentile and Anderson present the findings of their study on youth and violent video games.
The participants in the study were youth pursuing their college studies. Some were made to play an extremely violent game (Wolfenstein 3D) while others played non-violent games. Those who played the violent games were more likely to display aggressive behavior to other persons compared to those who played non-violent video games. Their conclusions reveal that violent video games have significant impacts on the youth.
The research findings have been consistent across the board. This is on the various types of studies like longitudinal, experimental, and cross-sectional and also across the different visual media like video games and movies. Research findings indicate that continued exposure of adolescents to violent video games increases the likelihood that they will depict physical aggression towards their peers or other people in general (Jonathan, 2002).
Aggressive behavior has been defined by researchers in this category as any act or behavior that is willingly intended to cause or prolong harm on someone else. These may include bullying, hitting with an object, or the reluctance in aiding someone in pain or distress (Slater, Kimberly, and Anderson, 2003).
Further results from other researches demonstrate the relationship between the levels of aggression and violent video games. These studies were motivated by the prospect of the idea that inherently aggressive individuals prefer violent games rather than the violent video games causing the aggressiveness (Bryant & Bryant, 2003).
The authors, in their study, investigated the effects of playing violent video games on individuals in their late teenage. The participants in the study were aged between 15 and19 and were all freely exposed to play video games with violent scenes.
About two thirds of them were found to have increased aggression when it comes to dealing with real-life situations. Furthermore, according to the study, those with inherent aggressive trait were more influenced by the violent video games as compared to those with very low hostile tendencies. Hence, the violent video games serve to increase the aggression, especially among the youth (Bryant & Bryant, 2003).
Another crucial area of investigation identified by researchers is on the various avenues through which the youth can be exposed to violent scenes. They argue that the exposure of violent images to the youth in the course of their development may determine the extent of the effects. The exposure of children to violent scenes as they grow may end up desensitizing them significantly (Slater, et. al., 2003).
According to Funk, Pasold & Heidi (2004), there is a significant desensitization of the youth from prolonged exposure to real-life, video game, and movie violence. In their journal, they evaluate the findings of their research into the relationship between the exposure of children and teenagers to violent scenes in real-life, playing video games, and watching movies with violent contents.
The findings of the research they conducted on American children estimates that by age 18, the average American child will have been exposed to over 200,000 acts and scenes of violence on television programs alone. The researchers conclude that children who play violent video games or are exposed to images of brutal killings, rapes, and bombings will most likely be desensitized to acts of violence and may perceive them as acceptable ways of responding to daily-life stresses and frustrations (Funk et. al., 2004).
In deed, more recent researchers have focused on determining the contribution of exposure to violent media and later manifestations of aggressive behavior.
After conducting their research into the prevalence of aggressive behavior, Woodard & Gridina (2006) provided statistics and facts as far as media violence and the youth is concerned in the United States of America. They conducted a research on violence depicted in the various media like the television, movies, and video games and how they affect children’s aggressive behavior later in life.
Their findings revealed that there is a positive correlation between the children’s interaction with violent scenes from the media and their aggressiveness. Moreover, they sought to find out whether the youth involved in violent crime have any experience with violent video games. The need to investigate this area was triggered by the tragic series of school shootings witnessed in the various states of American from 1974 to 2000.
Researchers wonder what evil would convince a student to turn against his colleagues! Among other underlying reasons, it was established that about 13% of the perpetrators were addicts of violent video games, about 25% in violent movies, and another 25% in violent books (Woodard & Gridina, 2006).
Pro-Violent Video Games Findings
In spite of the overwhelming findings against the playing of violent video games by the youth, some researchers still hold that there is no sufficient evidence to validate the claims. This controversy is what has complicated research into the topic of violent media and the youth. The researchers argue that the methods used to collect, analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions are not acceptable and hence the end results are misleading (Ferguson, 2007).
As much as these researchers may not object in totality the insights that some findings provide, it is the perceived negligence of the limiting factors that throws the dream for consensus into disarray.
The advocates for violent media argue that their opponents have very shallow definitions of what aggression or violence means (Stupak, 2004). Also, the omission of other contributing factors to aggression and violence brings further contention. They claim that the opponents ignore other antisocial characteristics and blame everything on violent video games.
According to Ferguson (2007), the test conditions employed by researchers and their subsequent results are not worth being used in general in the real world. He specifically points out experimental settings which according to him are artificial and there is limited time to make meaningful observations. Hence, in Ferguson’s opinion, the findings cannot be generalized. The sample used to conduct the studies has been identified to be usually very small and thus non-representative (Stupak, 2004).
Other researchers with similar opinions have conducted their studies to validate their arguments. They claim that the effects of violent video games on the youth exist but very negligible to be taken seriously.
Teenage violent crimes have been on the decline from 1995 to 2006 in the United States of America despite the reported sharp increase in popularity of violent video games among the adolescents over the same period (Ferguson, 2007). Ferguson further asserts that violent video games help the adolescent boys relieve their natural aggression instead of acting it out on their peers which would cause physical harm.
From the findings of the various researches and the reactions thereof, it is evident that the entire research community investigating the effects of violent media on the youth is sharply and clearly divided. The arguments for and against the playing of violent video games have been advanced.
The temptation to conclude which side wins may not be as easy as one may think. It is therefore evident that the investigations into this topic are far from over. More reliable and valid research methods need to be designed if this topic is to be exhaustively concluded. Since psychology is a science in itself and that scientific methods must be adhered to the letter, contradictory findings are the ones that will lead to the ultimate and conclusive finding as far as the topic is concerned.
Anderson, C. A., Donnerstein, E., Johnson, J. D. & Wartella, E. (2005). The impact of violent video games on the youth. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Psychological Sciences in the Interest of the Public. Vol. 6 (2), 72-112.
Bryant, A. & Bryant, J. (2003). Media and the Youth: Effects of violent video games on adolescents. [Peer Reviewed Journal Article] Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. Vol. 25(3), 321-356.
Ferguson, C. J. (2007). Effects of violent video games: Evidence for literature publication bias. [Peer Reviewed Journal] National Institute of Mental Health. Vol.10 (2), 431-478.
Funk, J. B., Pasold, T. & Heidi, B. (2004). Exposure to violence in real-life, video games, internet, and movies: Is there desensitization? [Peer Reviewed Journal] Journal of Adolescence. Vol.27 (4), 3-45.
Gentile, D. A. & Anderson, C. A. (2003). Violent Video Games: The Effects on the Youth. Mc Graw Hill Plc.
Jonathan, I. F. (2002). Media violence and its influence on youth aggression: the assessment of scientific evidence. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Slater, M. D., Kimberly, H. L., & Anderson, L. L. (2003). Violent video games and aggressiveness in adolescents. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Science Journals. Vol. 31(2), 213-247. Retrieved from ProQuest database.
Woodard, E. H. & Gridina, N. M. (2006). Use of the Media in the Home 2006: The 10th annual survey of children and parents. Philadelphia, PA: The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.