09 Feb The Effects of Violent Video Games on Teens
What are the effects of violent video games on teens, really?
In an effort to understand, explain and ultimately define the reasoning behind heinous acts committed by troubled teens all over the world, violent video games have largely become a major talking point by members of law enforcement, journalists, newscasters, parent groups, political figures, researchers and others since the early 1990s.
Whether analysing the aftermath of deadly school shootings in the U.S., knife violence in Australia or crime sprees by youth gangs in Europe, a similar source of blame – often absent of any adequate research to back it up – is given time and time again: violent video games.
Latest Findings: Effects of Violent Video Games on Teens
Similar to comic books in the 1950s and rock music in the 1980s, video games are now commonly blamed for undesirable and violent behaviours in teens, though it is nearly impossible to distinguish the effects of video games from other common media like television shows and movies.
Though more than half of the current top 50 selling video games in the world contain violence, modern research studies have failed to show any firm link between video games and real-world violence. While playing video games has been found to release dopamine in teens, a similar side effect of synthetic drug use, there remains no irrefutable evidence that playing violent video games actually leads to more violent tendencies.
A 2015 report from the American Psychological Association (APA) determined that playing video games can actually aid in giving teenagers a greater sense of self, as well as honing their problem-solving skills, assisting in their visual perception and developing their task management skills. Another researcher concluded that the increased complexity of video games promotes intelligence, coordination and problem-solving skills in teenage users.
In fact, a large analysis of violent video game use and violent crime not only showed that increased sales of violent video games did not lead to an increase in violent crime, but some evidence actually showed the exact opposite: increased sales of violent video games coincided with lower instances of violent crimes over the same time period.
Lastly, studies have shown that publication bias is a major issue within the topic of violent video games in general; overall, studies linking aggressive behaviour with violent video game use are more likely to be published than studies that find no link at all, giving further justification to this ongoing argument.
An earlier policy statement released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 2005 states that violent video games led to increased aggression and detracted from feelings of empathy and sensitivity to aggression. Although the same study also states that they did not find sufficient evidence of increased violence, a group of 230 scholars from universities around the globe came together in 2013 to publish an open letter calling the APA’s stance ‘misleading and alarmist,’ further asking that they refrain from releasing any further policy statements on the matter.
Additionally, arguments against violent video games often conclude that teens may begin to associate violence with pleasure and rewards and practicing repeated acts of violence on screen may cause those behaviours to become automatic responses in real life. A study published in Psychology Today found that violent video games may undermine the ‘moral sensitivity’ of teens, as well as teach them how to behave like criminals in the first place. Other arguments often state that these video games harm the final stages of brain development like decision-making, empathy, and cause lower activation of brain development in the areas of reasoning and emotional control.
After studying 100 thirteen to fourteen-year old’s, a 2014 study from Brock University in Canada concluded that playing violent video games in excess of 3 hours per day led to delays in learning ‘empathy, trust and concern for others,’ though no strong correlation was found between the amount of time playing violent video games and ‘attitudes towards real violence.’
While video games are often used as a means of escape for stressed teens, addictive video game use can cause negative effects on social relationships and development, and signal deeper issues or a desire for social isolation.
The key to video game use is to understand your teen’s emotional stability, mental health and insist that they balance their screen time with real-life social interaction.
For further help understanding how our youth military programs and Parental Guidance Workshops might be right for you and your family, get in touch with our mentors on +61 418-869-061. You can also learn more about how to support your child through these challenges with our article about children addicted to technology and what you can do to help.