When television first brought violence into the living rooms of families there was little thought about the impact it might have on children. As children and adolescents began to behave in more physically aggressive ways; exposure to violence started to become the focus of the reasons or causes of such violent acts. With the inception of video games, the concern for children’s exposure to violent acts became even more pronounced.
Studies to determine the effect of violent video games on children have been conducted with Credit: Source: Microsoft Officesome expected results. However, the question “do violent video games cause children and adolescents to become violent?” is not simply answered. As with most complex questions, there are several variables that must be taken into account: social context, gender differences, length of exposure, and developmental level of the children are a few of those variables.
In most western cultures early adolescence is the peak time that children are exposed to video games. Developmentally, adolescence is a time when trait aggression increases, especially in males. Adolescents begin to take more risks and have a heightened level of physiological arousal. Video games with a high level of action can accommodate those needs with a safety net of it all happening in a virtual reality.
Theories Regarding Video Games and Aggression in Children
Researchers theorized that there were two possible explanations for the connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior.
- Socialization hypothesis proposed that the exposure makes viewers more aggressive
- Selection hypothesis (also called the reverse hypothesis) proposed that aggressive individuals are more attracted to violent media
Of course, these two hypotheses can be interlinked. An individual may have the preference for violent content (selection hypothesis) which then reinforces the aggressive tendencies (socialization). Social learning suggests that the characters in the games are role models and promote aggression by being rewarded. With the advanced graphics and sound effects of games, violent acts are rewarded by bonus points, fireworks, etc. Added to that is the idea the game justifies the use of weapons or martial arts to kill the opponents. Rewarding the aggression implies it is a useful way to handle conflicts and vent hostility or frustration. As the individual controls the characters movement; in essence, the individual becomes the character; thus identifies with the character on a personal level.
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Results of Studies Regarding Video Games and Aggression
The development of belief systems can be influenced by the exposure to the video games; though this area has been studied less frequently. However, there is some evidence in previously conducted studies that there is a relationship between hostile attribution bias (interpreting situations in terms of hostility and aggression even when there is no evidence of such) and physical aggression in children and adolescents.
As technology has advanced, so has the graphics and sound effects in video games; making them more and more realistic. According to Moller and Krahe in Aggressive Behavior, studies showed that the relationship between violent game exposure and aggression increased for games developed after 1995. Their analysis of the various studies conducted prior to their own led them to state in the short term, exposure to violent video games can increase aggressive behavioral tendencies.
The study conducted by Moller and Krahe resulted in supporting previous studies in regards to the link between aggression and exposure to violent video games. It showed exposure to video games does increase the acceptance of physical aggression as an alternative for conflict resolution; and normative beliefs condoning aggression can predict aggressive behavior in children and adolescents. That is not to say all children and adolescents exposed will ultimately go out and engage in aggressive acts; but it does show a correlation between what goes into the minds of children and what impacts their behaviors. It does matter what fills the brains of children and adolescents.
The copyright of the article Is There a Connection Between Violent Video Games and Aggression in Children and Adolescents? is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.