Anonymous's picture

Do violent video games impact kids?

I'm a little worried about my two-year-old nephew. Whenever my brother and I hang out, we like to play video games. My brother doesn't have any problem with his son being in the room when we're playing violent, gory games like Gears of War. It makes me uncomfortable. Isn't my nephew too young to be exposed to stuff like this?

Bel's picture

A 2 year old should not be around violent video games, movies or anything like that.

gail Hanson's picture
gail Hanson

You have good instincts.  Trust them.

Heather6773's picture

Whenever my boys would play a wrestling video game they would try the moves on each other or I'd get a note from school that they had gotten in trouble. So needless to say the game went in the trash. I don't think young kids can tell the difference between reality and fake

Mom to my boys!!!

Brenden 10 years old Born 12-23-96
Zachary 8 years old Born 4-1-99

Mr. Blond's picture
Mr. Blond

When they tried the moves on each other, was it just play fighting, or were they trying to injure each other? If it was only the former, I wouldn't be too concerned.

I would even say violent video games may be good for kids, as they can help them navigate their emotions in a controlled setting. I would recommend reading Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Superheroes, and Make-Believe Violence by Gerard Jones. Here's a little of what he's had to say:

At its most fundamental level, what we call "creative violence" -- head-bonking cartoons, bloody videogames, playground karate, toy guns -- gives children a tool to master their rage. Children will feel rage. Even the sweetest and most civilized of them, even those whose parents read the better class of literary magazines, will feel rage. The world is uncontrollable and incomprehensible; mastering it is a terrifying, enraging task. Rage can be an energizing emotion, a shot of courage to push us to resist greater threats, take more control, than we ever thought we could. But rage is also the emotion our culture distrusts the most. Most of us are taught early on to fear our own. Through immersion in imaginary combat and identification with a violent protagonist, children engage the rage they've stifled, come to fear it less, and become more capable of utilizing it against life's challenges.

The full article can be found at this link. I highly recommend it before forming your judgment.

junieg's picture

I read the link you provided but could cite dozens more which contradict this. Children will always indulge in play fighting, which is a normal part of growing up and probably a survival instinct. The violence in some of these games are outwith reasonable levels though and are just sick. When my son was 13, he borrowed Grand Theft Auto from a friend. I wasn't aware of it's content at that time. He was always more aggressive though after playing it and therefore it was banned from this home. He is 18 now so can make his own mind up. He has agreed with me about the aggression he felt. As far as violent games go, this one is not nearly as bad as some I have heard of. Child's Play 3 is linked to the horrific murder of two year old Jamie Bulger by two 10 year olds.
I certainly think violent video games impact on children.

Mr. Blond's picture
Mr. Blond

Just because they watched Child's Play 3 doesn't mean that's what caused them to commit the crime. Think of how many 10-year-olds (and people in general) who have seen that movie and did not commit a crime, or who committed a crime and did not see the movie.

Throw any one of the links you mentioned my way, and I'm sure I've seen it. I am aware of the evidence that supposedly shows that violent media leads to violent behavior, but it can be easily refuted. First off, most studies show correlation, not cause and effect. Your Child's Play analogy is an example of this. It showed that while one factor (the viewing of Child's Play) was present alongside the murder of James Bulger, it can't be said that viewing the movie was what caused these kids to commit the murder. Similarly, the existing studies show that as media violence increases, aggressive behavior increases; however, it does not follow that there is a causal link between the two.

Another major problem is the way violence and aggression are defined and measured. Even your explanation of how GTA made your son "aggressive" raised a red flag to me. What do you mean by that? "Aggression" and "violence" are not interchangeable. All violence is aggression, but not all aggression is violence. Some aggression is positive, such as that exhibited on the football field, or persistence by a salesman to make a deal. Anyway, the problem is, most of these studies are conducted in laboratory settings, which would lead the subjects to behave radically different than they might in the real world. Further adding to the artificial environment is the fact that researchers use proxies for aggression, such as hitting dolls, popping balloons, or observing "aggressive play" (playing Army instead of House) to support their findings. There is a huge leap from these sterile, controlled setups to the various interactions and variables one would encounter in the real world.

Finally, there is the phenomenon known as demand characteristics. This shows that participants in scientific research will be predisposed to act in a manner that proves the researcher's hypothesis. Thus, participants in a study on aggression, in an attempt to be "good subjects", will have a tendency to act aggressively, skewing the results.

junieg's picture

You obviously have your mind set on strategies which support your use of violent video games both when you were growing up and at present. Lost cause trying to change any of that so we shall just have to agree to disagree. Seems there are a lot more people against than for though. Wonder what that says.

stephy's picture

My thoughts turn to Albert Bandura's 'Social Learning Theory'. Children learn a lot through behaviours that are observed and reinforced.

gail's picture

The social sciences are a lot trickier than the others because it is so hard to control for things.  You have differences during gestation, infancy and toddler-hood that occurred without any documentation.  Even the kind of rest and nutrition that a child had before participating in the study can impact how they respond.  Some people are born resilient, some are made resilient, and some have resilience thrust upon 'em.   And others are emotionally, intellectually, socially fragile. 

  I had additional thoughts.  One of the books I read in the last 30 years (sorry, no better documentation than that) said that those good old scary fairytales were told for several reasons.  One was to help them plan, in a non-threatening situation, for real dangers.  Hansel & Gretel,  "what do you do if you get lost?"   Another was to help the children differentiate between real dangers and fantasy.  Children can have anxieties that are not useful for them, that make them unable to cope.  Sharing imaginary fears through story-telling can help them deal with imaginary fears as well as real danger. 

   I wonder if the problem with video games that are violent is that they give some children an inflated sense of power, or maybe a sense that things that hurt don't really hurt.  You have three lives, and there is no physical pain associated with the battle, and you can earn extra lives or powers.  It is a game.  I think if you talk about the game with your child, point out its deficiencies, how any nerd with a list of cheats can beat, and most importantly, if you can engage your child with real life, in relationships with real people, you can help your child be resilient. 

  The bottom line is, you have to do what you believe works for your family.  Sometimes we don't find out for a whole generation whether something was a good idea.

Mr. Blond's picture
Mr. Blond

Junieg-it doesn't look like I will change your mind either. Although, when you say more people are against them, I'm sure you mean on this board, and not in this country generally (assuming you are from the US). That's largely a generational difference, and one in which the critics are often uninformed (for the record, you do know that Child's Play 3 was a movie, not a video game, right?). The same thing happened with comic books in the 1950's. I had kind of hoped to present the other side and allow concerned parents some time to think about the issue before jumping on the "violent video games are evil and kids should never play them" bandwagon.

Stephy-what I was getting at was, Bandura's experiment was very flawed. It was conducted in a very artificial setting that tells us nothing about any real life situation. It tried to link learning of violence to the hitting of a Bobo doll, a toy that is meant to be hit. Hopefully you'll agree that there is a huge difference between hitting a doll and hitting a person. Finally, the kids in that study were invited, and even encouraged, by the researcher, to engage in that activity. That smacks of both researcher bias and demand characteristics-kids will feel like they have to do this activity to please the man in the white coat, not that they will do this in a normal, everyday situation.