Video Games and Violence in Children

Each generation has found different games to criticize, whether because of violence, racism, nudity, or other moral domains. There have even been claims that school shootings and some gun crime have even been inspired by video games. While some of the literature is convinced that video games cause children to become more violent, other studies claim that there is no causal link between the first person shooter type of computer games and real-life acts of aggression, arguing that what happens on the screen is, in fact, cathartic, and allows children to work out their natural aggression in a safe and creative way. An unbiased review of the literature reveals that there are considerable methodological difficulties in conducting an empirical search in this field and that even where these difficulties are addressed, the case for a causal relationship between children’s use of video games and violent behaviors is certainly not proven. Some of the most vociferous complaints about the harmful effects of video games have come from psychiatric and medical quarters, often using parallels drawn from real life situations like military training. Dave Grossman, for example, a Colonel in the American army, draws an inference from rising crime figures between the 1960s and the 1990s, that this is the result of increasingly violent media being used by children and young people. His point is mainly that exposure to guns and methods of killing is itself harmful, and that it makes children more effective killers, once they have taken the step to get involved in gun-based or any other kind of violence. This point of view is held also by psychologists like J.B. Fink (1993) and K. E. Dill amp. J. C. Dill (1998) who argue that violent video games desensitize children, and positively reinforce violent behavior through frequent repetition. It has even been claimed that The scientific debate over whether media violence has an effect is basically over, and should have been over by 1975 (D. Gentile and Craig Anderson, 2003, p. 134). These last two authors claim that aggressor effect, victim effect, bystander effect and appetite effect are all demonstrable in connection with media violence and that they are even stronger in the case of video games because there is more identification with the aggressor, there is more active participation, which encourages learning, whole behavioral sequences are practiced, and violence is continuous, repeated, and rewarded in video games (p. 135-136).