5. Psychologists Believe Playing Violent Video Games Is A Risk Factor For Aggressive Behavior
Parents have worried about a link between violent video games and aggressive behavior for some time and it seems that medical professionals agree that they are right to be concerned. In 2014 a study of pediatricians and parents showed that 90% of pediatricians felt that playing violent video games led to an increase in aggressive behavior in children.
Six of the leading medical associations in the US (including the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics) agree with the survey and they issued a joint statement in which they state that while the effect of media violence is ‘complex and variable’ it does lead to several measurable effects which are likely to include children increasingly seeing violence as a means to settle conflicts, viewing violence as acceptable and increasing the tendency towards violent and aggressive behavior. They also state that the impact of violent video games is likely to be more profound than that of other forms of media due to the interactive nature of the entertainment.
The position these medical associations are taking is that while playing video games many not cause an otherwise psychologically healthy child who has no other risk factors to turn into a violent individual as a risk factor it does increase the odds significantly.
4. Many Of Those Responsible For Mass Shootings Were Found To Have Played Violent Video Games
It is not wrong to say that America has a problem with teen violence and whatever your stance on the right to bear arms it is a fact that a large number of mass shootings take place every year. While such tragic events can happen even in societies where guns are outlawed (such as the tragic Dunblane and Whitehaven massacres in the UK or the island massacre in Norway) they are far rarer than in the US. The statistics are sobering, in 2012 the number of people murdered by a gun (per capita) was 30 times that of the UK. So many people are shot in the US every year that when the death toll from shootings between 1968 and 2011 is totaled (1.4 million) it comes to more people than were killed in all American wars from the War of Independence to participation in Iraq (1.2 million).
Many of the people responsible for such shootings were keen players of violent video games, this includes the Colombine shooters, the Colorado movie shooter and the Arizona senatorial shooter. The Bethel High School shooter said, in interviews after the fact that he did not really understand that shooting someone would cause them to die because when he played Doom they just got back up again. This phenomenon is not just seen in the US, Norwegian serial shooter Anders Brevik claimed that he used Call of Duty as a training tool in the run up to his rampage.
The FBI take this link so seriously that a threat of violence will be seen as being more credible if the person making the threat has a known history of playing violent video games.
3. Playing Violent Video Games Causes An Increase In Violent Behavior In Real Life
It is all too easy for a parent to abrogate responsibility for the potential impact of violent video games. If you are in a middle class family living a comfortable life it is comforting to think that the problems highlighted in this article, the negative impacts of playing violent video games are something that will happen to other children, ones from deprived backgrounds or who live in areas in which violence is already a fact of day to day life.
Sadly while this is a comfortable fiction it is, nonetheless, a fiction. The simple truth is that playing violent video games will cause an increase in the likelihood that a child will become more violent, aggressive and a potential bully whether they come from a professional family in a comfortable suburbs or from a family scraping to make ends meet in a trailer park or urban ‘hood’. The statistics are chilling; a 3 year study of children in Singapore showed that playing an M rated game (M = mature) results in 40% of middle school girls and 60% of their male counterparts to beat up another person (compared with 14 and 39% respectively for those who did not play). These children are also more likely to get involved in bullying and the rising problem of cyberbullying.
The reasons for this are complex but come back to the combination of the aggressor/victim effect (see 6 above) which occurs when players are desensitized to violence through game play resulting in their becoming more aggressive overall. At the same time the games condition the players to be on constant alert for potential threats. When they encounter such a threat or perceived threat they react in a far more violent manner than they would otherwise have done.