By Bill Korach. www.thereportcard.org
What are your kids watching? What video games are they playing? Chances are they are playing Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto. Mortal Kombat, from Nether Realm Studios is a game of violence where the defeated fighter is mutilated, and dismembered replete with gore and guts. It sold 3 million units in its latest release. Grand Theft Auto, from Rock Star a game where criminals kill cops, prostitutes and unarmed civilians has sold over 114 Million units. Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Kleybold were avid players of the video game Doom which has sold over 4 million copies.
Studies have shown that these games cause aggressive behavior and can lead to violence. Look at these trailers of Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto and decide whether it is healthy for your child to spend an average of 13 hours each week playing these games. What about homework? What about exercise? Then read the reports about the impact of violent video games on the lives of America’s youth. There is no way that these games are a good use of your child’s time.
Grand Theft Auto
University of Missouri Study
Craig A. Anderson Department of Psychology University of Missouri–Columbia
Karen E. Dill Department of Psychology Lenoir-Rhyne College
Two studies examined violent video game effects on aggression-related variables. Study 1 found that real-life violent video game play was positively related to aggressive behavior and delinquency. The relation was stronger for individuals who are characteristically aggressive and for men. Academic achievement was negatively related to overall amount of time spent playing video games. In Study 2, laboratory exposure to a graphically violent video game increased aggressive thoughts and behavior. In both studies, men had a more hostile view of the world than did women. The results from both studies are consistent with the General Affective Aggression Model, which predicts that exposure to violent video games will increase aggressive behavior in both the short term (e.g., laboratory aggression) and the long term (e.g., delinquency).
This research was supported by the Psychology Department at the University of Missouri–Columbia. We thank Julie Tuggle, Luisa Stone, Kathy Neal, Shelby Stone, and Lynn McKinnon for their assistance in collecting data. We also thank William Benoit, Brad Bushman, Russell Geen, Mary Heppner, and Michael Stadler for comments on drafts of this article.
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold launched an assault on Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, murdering 13 and wounding 23 before turning the guns on themselves. Although it is impossible to know exactly what caused these teens to attack their own classmates and teachers, a number of factors probably were involved. One possible contributing factor is violent video games. Harris and Klebold enjoyed playing the bloody, shoot-‘em-up video game Doom, a game licensed by the U.S. military to train soldiers to effectively kill. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks Internet hate groups, found in its archives a copy of Harris’ web site with a version of Doom that he had customized. In his version there are two shooters, each with extra weapons and unlimited ammunition, and the other people in the game can’t fight back. For a class project, Harris and Klebold made a videotape that was similar to their customized version of Doom. In the video, Harris and Klebold dress in trench coats, carry guns, and kill school athletes. They acted out their videotaped performance in real life less than a year later. An investigator associated with the Wiesenthal Center said Harris and Klebold were “playing out their game in God mode” (Pooley, 1999, p. 32).
Video Game Violence
Violent video games linked to child aggression
November 03, 2008|By Anne Harding
About 90 percent of U.S. kids ages 8 to 16 play video games, and they spend about 13 hours a week doing so (more if you’re a boy). Now a new study suggests virtual violence in these games may make kids more aggressive in real life.
Kids in both the U.S. and Japan who reported playing lots of violent video games had more aggressive behavior months later than their peers who did not, according to the study, which appears in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers specifically tried to get to the root of the chicken-or-egg problem — do children become more aggressive after playing video games or are aggressive kids more attracted to violent videos?
It’s a murky — and controversial — issue. Many studies have linked violence in TV shows and video games to violent behavior. But when states have tried to keep under-18 kids from playing games rated “M” for mature, the proposed restrictions have often been challenged successfully in court.
In the new study, Dr. Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D., of Iowa State University in Ames, and his colleagues looked at how children and teen’s video game habits at one time point related to their behavior three to six months later.
The study included three groups of kids: 181 Japanese students ages 12 to 15; 1,050 Japanese students aged 13 to 18; and 364 U.S. kids ages 9 to 12.
The U.S. children listed their three favorite games and how often they played them. In the younger Japanese group, the researchers looked at how often the children played five different violent video game genres (fighting action, shooting, adventure, among others); in the older group they gauged the violence in the kids’ favorite game genres and the time they spent playing them each week.
Japanese children rated their own behavior in terms of physical aggression, such as hitting, kicking or getting into fights with other kids; the U.S. children rated themselves too, but the researchers took into account reports from their peers and teachers as well.
In every group, children who were exposed to more video game violence did become more aggressive over time than their peers who had less exposure. This was true even after the researchers took into account how aggressive the children were at the beginning of the study — a strong predictor of future bad behavior.
Do Video Games Make Kids Violent?
Joshua Gardner ABC 12/17
Adam Lanza gunned down twenty-seven people in Newtown, Conn. Dec. 14 and his access to high-powered firearms has put gun control front and center in the discourse around the tragedy. At the same time, it has started a debate about violent video games. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) raised the issue while discussing his proposed “national commission on mass violence” on “Fox News Sunday” Dec. 16.
“The violence in the entertainment culture, particularly with the extraordinary realism to video games and movies now, does cause vulnerable young men, particularly, to be more violent,” said the senator, who was joined by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
ABC News has not confirmed that Lanza played violent video games, but gaming has become part of the debate since the Connecticut shootings, and one group, GamerFitNation, has said it plans a national “cease-fire” Friday out of respect for those who died in Newtown.
The issue of the effect of video game violence on young people came into the national spotlight in 2011 when a California law banning the sale of some games to minors was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. The 2005 law was never enforced due to legal challenges. California asked the court to treat violent and sexually explicit video games as apart from First Amendment protections, much like obscenity.
The Supreme Court deemed California’s law unconstitutional in 2011. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia described the bill as “unprecedented and mistaken” and likened the violence in kids’ games to that in commonly read children’s fairy tales. Justice Scalia also wrote that a causal link between these games’ content and harm to young people had not been proven and went on to place the responsibility to filter what children are exposed to with the parents.
“Parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home,” Scalia wrote. “Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents’ control can hardly be a compelling state interest.”
Laura Davies, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist in San Francisco is hesitant to support tighter controls on media of any kind. However, she believes too many children are exposed to too much violence through video games and that there can be consequences.
“A huge part of discipline and development is understanding consequences. Letting kids know that their actions have consequences,” Dr. Davies told ABCnews.com. “Video games like Grand Theft Auto turn the consequences into positives. You kill a prostitute and get points, you’re rewarded.”
In contrast to Justice Scalia, Dr. Davies said there is a distinct difference between how a child is affected by reading about violence versus how he or she is affected by video game violence.
“They’re not affected by reading a violent book the same way they are from a video game that is visually violent and that they actually participate in and that rewards them for violent acts,” she said.
Though studies on the issue are abundant, none have been successful at directly correlating video game violence and real-world violence in children.
Chris Ferguson, department chair of psychology and communication at Texas A&M International University, has conducted several studies on violence and its effects on youth. Ferguson, who called himself a proponent of gun control, stressed the importance of mental health treatment access and of parents monitoring what their children are exposed to. However, Ferguson said he firmly believes violent video games do not lead to violence in the real world.
“If we are serious about reducing these types of violence in our society, video game violence or other media violence issues are clearly the wrong direction to focus on,” Ferguson told ABC News. “Video game use is just not a common factor among mass homicide perpetrators. Some have been players, others have not been.”
Dr. Davies said she disagrees. Though she concedes that studies cannot prove conclusively that violent games lead to violent acts in young people, she made a distinction between those children who are naturally better able to distinguish between fantasy and reality and those, perhaps like Adam Lanza, who may not see those distinctions so easily.
“There are no numbers. It is impossible to prove causality with these sorts of things,” said Dr. Davies. “But certain personalities are unable to so easily differentiate between fantasy and the real world. They might not fully understand that the people they harm have real lives and real families. As kids grow, most distinguish fantasy from reality.”
Though she differs in her beliefs on the cause of violent acts such as those carried out by young people like Lanza, Dr. Davies, like Justice Scalia and Chris Ferguson, agrees that parents and the schools have a responsibility to help catch problem behavior before it escalates to violence.
“There needs to be more mental health oversight. They say this kid had issues before and if you see a kid is living too much in the fantasy side, that needs to be addressed,” she said. “I’m not sure there is a clear cut solution. But, and especially if you see a kid is living too much in the fantasy world, parents need to limit screen time and limit violent games.”