Video games have become one of our world's biggest pass times and hobbies. There is a huge array to choose from and everybody loves them, some almost to the point of obsession. They've been around for thirty years now and have come a long way since the first Atari games. Game designers have made them so realistic to the point where one can loose themselves in the game for hours. But is this really a good thing? Focusing on youth, what effects are these games, particularly the violent ones, having on their growth and development into adults?
Studies have shown that adolescents that play violent video games tend to be more aggressive, are more likely to have conflicts with their teachers, typically fight more with their peers, and have a noticeable decline in academic performance (www.pamf.org/preteen/parents/videogames.html). These games have also been linked to poor social skills, spending less time with family or doing school work or other hobbies, less reading and illiteracy, decrease in exercise and weight gain, and aggressive tendencies (www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_video_games_playing_with_violence). So what, exactly, are these games doing to create these issues?
The answer is simple; a lot of the violent video games such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and Assassin's Creed promote things like the killing of people or animals, substance abuse, disrespect for the law and law enforcement, criminal behavior, sexual exploitation and violence towards women, racial, gender, and sexual stereotypes, and obscene language and gestures by repeated exposure to these acts that would be considered atrocities in the real world (www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_video_games_playing_with_violence). This is a teaching method that has been used for centuries to make things stick in the minds of the students, whether it be humans or animals. If a dog owner wants the dog to learn how to sit, they will repeatedly force the dog to sit, while sternly saying the word, "sit" and if the dog performs it correctly, they earn some sort of reward, whether it's an enthusiastic pat on the head or a treat. These games do the same thing by forcing the gamer to keep their character alive by killing an opponent or the boss of a level and rewarding them by allowing them to move to the next level or unlock achievements.
Another issue that violence in video games creates is "immunity" or decreased sensitivity to real-life violence and death. Children are actually accepting violence as a way to cope with personal issues or problems that they face. It has also been proven that children with emotional, behavioral, and learning problems are more influenced by repeated exposure to violent images (www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_video_games_playing_with_violence). And it's not just youth that has become immune to these violent images, but most of society as well. Just look at horror movies from the past and present. When movies like Alfred Hitchock's "Psycho" or "The Birds" came out, they were the absolute scariest of their time. They didn't show graphic scenes of death, mutilation, and rape that the horror movies of today's world do, but in that time period, they scared people more than the modern ones do today. Also related to that is the increase in violence in video games from the past to the present. The first video games were simple, entertaining, poor graphic child's games such as Super Mario Brothers or Pacman. Today's games have excellent graphics and multiple levels of blood spraying, high body count violent adult action. These games are the highest grossing, most wanted in the industry by all ages, but they are absolutely not appropriate for all ages.
Although a lot of the problem comes from the game designers it can't all be put on their shoulders. They have a rating system and they list the ages that their games are appropriate for, therefore parents play a huge role in the amount the games influence their children. "1 in 4 parents let kids play 18+ [rated] games," child psychologist, Linda Blair, stated in her article, It's not Healthy to Expose Your Child to Screen Violence. Blair also claims that parents are enforcing the idea that disrespecting law enforcement is okay by breaking the rules and getting their children games that have been rated inappropriate for their ages. When asked, a majority of teens stated that their parents didn't impose time limits for them when they play their video games (www.pamf.org/preteen/parents/videogames.html). This also plays a huge factor in how much the teen is influenced by the game. If exposure to violence is more limited, then the influence is also decreased.
Now, not all video games are destructive. Certain games can actually be beneficial to children. The invention of the Nintendo Wii, a physically interactive video gaming console, has led to dramatic weight loss in some cases depending on the frequency of play. They have games such as Wii Sports or Just Dance that promote being active while having fun at the same time. They also promote spending time with family and friends because most of their games are multi-player and appropriate for all ages. Other games such as the Mario Brothers games (i.e. Mario Kart, Mario Party, Super Mario Brothers, Paper Mario, etc) and the Kirby and Sonic the Hedgehog games are neither beneficial nor harmful. They are appropriate for all ages and fun to play as a group. All of these games have been rated accordingly and are they types of games that parents should be allowing their children and adolescents to play.
The only way to stop the influence of violent video games is to enforce stricter rules on them by the parents. There is nothing the government or law enforcement can do further than they already have with the rating system. It is up to the parents to enforce time limits and put their feet down when their kids ask for 18+ or Mature rated games. Some tips for parents help their children grow in a healthy way are to make sure they read the ratings of their children's video games, don't install video game equipment in their children's bedrooms, monitor their children's media consumption including television, movies, music, and internet, be active in their children's lives and talk to them about their games and how what they see in these games effects how they feel, and talk to other parents about their experiences (http://www.pamf.org/preteen/parents/videogames.html).
Blair, Linda. "It's Not Healthy to Expose Your Child to Screen Violence." Parenting RSS. N.p., 10 Feb. 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/woman/parenting/4120665/Its-not-healthy-to- expose-your-child-to-screen-violence-says-child-psychologist.html>.
"Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence | American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry." Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence | American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_video_games_playing_w ith_violence>.
Norcia, Andrea. "The Impact of Video Games on Children." The Impact of Video Games on Children. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.pamf.org/preteen/parents/videogames.html>.