Kids and Violence in Media
How do the images our children see on TV, and in movies and video games affect them – and how can parents dial down the exposure?
The research on video games, especially first-person shooter games, is much more scarce since they have not been around as long as TV, making long-term studies difficult. A recent meta-analysis in 2010 of 12 earlier studies found a link between time spent playing bloody video games and violent behavior later in life. A 2004 study in the Journal of Adolescence showed that video games, because of their physical activity and be-the-character interactivity, desensitized kids to violence even more than TV. However, other studies have failed to show a link between violent video game exposure and aggression.
Also, most studies have focused on normal kids, not those with existing mental problems. A 2011 study found that gamers who had lower social competence and great impulsiveness had an increased risk of becoming pathological gamers. While playing video games can be a coping mechanism for a child who’s already experiencing depression or anxiety, the study’s authors suggest gaming can also increase those problems. Like TV, more research needs to be done, especially on kids with risk factors like mental illness or violence in the home.
Cheryl Olson, author of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, believe many of the dire predictions about kids and video games are overblown. “Violent crime has been decreasing for the last five years, according to the FBI. So why would we be seeing that if there was a monkey-see, monkey-do effect going on with video games, which are increasing?” she says.
Her research found some video games can actually be beneficial for kids. “They are learning to delay gratification, persist, solve problems, cope with frustration and blow off steam,” she says. “We even found that kids who played sports games sometimes went on to play more offline sports.”