Violent online video games are an ongoing source of concern among many parents, yet it can be hard to assess their impact on children. A review of available evidence indicates they can have both positive and negative outcomes for kids who play them.
Studies have demonstrated that violent games may make players feel more aggressive after playing them; however, this seems to only impact certain individuals.
Effects on Aggression
Studies conducted on children and adolescents have reported an increase in aggression following exposure to violent video games (Coyne et al 2012; Saleem et al 2012), but evidence for this claim is far from compelling; most rely on self-report data, which isn’t always reliable (see discussion of mischievous responding).
Second, these findings only demonstrate the acute consequences of violent game play. To fully comprehend whether violence-rich gaming contributes to aggression over time, researchers need to follow participants for longer durations and assess them after some delay using more comprehensive assessment batteries that include measures of empathy as well as mood and cognition.
Christopher Ferguson suggests that many of the findings related to short-term effects were weak and may have been caused by an artificial relationship between aggression and violent game play, and short-term effects. Future research should employ better controls in order to avoid this problem; until then, attentive parenting should remain essential.
Effects on Social Skills
The video game industry has overtaken both music and movie sales industries in terms of sales. Of particular note is its immense success with sales; violent video games remain increasingly popular, especially First-Person Shooter (FPS) online titles. Previous research using the General Aggression Model (GAM) has demonstrated how these violent titles increase levels of aggression within players.
Studies of video games reveal a more nuanced picture. Many factors, including social and family background, have been found to impact aggressive attitudes and behavior beyond just playing violent video games.
Additionally, online gaming, where players communicate through text or voice chat with other gamers via text or voice chat has been linked with cyberbullying and increased levels of aggression. Therefore it is crucial for parents to understand the different effects of each game, set appropriate guidelines, and engage in discussions with children regarding virtual violence versus real world violence. Also keep in mind that all video games carry age ratings which must be adhered to.
Effects on Self-Esteem
Violence-themed video games that are so prevalent among children and adolescents can have negative repercussions on mood, especially if graphic and prolonged. Studies have indicated that children who play violent video games are more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors in real life while other studies indicate the games cause players to act hostile toward people they don’t know.
One study which tracked children for several months found no correlation between playing violent video games and later aggression or hostility, nor between girls who played these video games and later behavior that may become hostile or aggressive. Their researchers also concluded that no link existed between violent gaming habits and subsequent aggressive or hostile behaviors of some kids who played them and subsequent hostile or aggressive behaviour displayed. It appears as if their aggressive and hostile behaviour may more be connected with personality/temperament rather than gaming habits themselves. To further test these hypotheses a linear model was applied in order to test effects of violent game playing on trait level aggression scores while keeping variable gender variables constant over time.
Effects on Attention
Even amid alarmist headlines, most experts are of the belief that violent video games do not cause long-term aggressive or antisocial behaviors among children and adolescents. Although observational studies do not prove direct causes and effects, experiments show that playing violent games does switch players temporarily into more aggressive modes.
Factors can influence the level of aggression among gamers, such as the type of game they choose and their personal history. Researchers conducted one experiment where 9- to 12-year old participants were randomly assigned either a violent video game or nonviolent computer game before being asked to help or hinder another participant’s earnings in another online game; children who’d played violent video games tended to behave more aggressively than those who’d played helping games.
Parents should review ratings systems of individual games to assess whether they contain violence, sexual content or any other issues which might be troubling to their children. Furthermore, parents must keep a close eye on what their kids are playing and for how much time.