Computer Game Violence

When’s the last time you observed the computer and video games your children play?

Well once you do, don’t be surprised if you find yourself suddenly laying down some ground rules on the types of games that come into your home, and the hours spent playing them.From the slapstick of pre-school games, to the graphic violence of some teen games, the video game culture often relies on violence for entertainment. And for good reason. “Violence is inherently attention grabbing, or seems to be inherently attention grabbing for most people”, explains Craig Anderson, with the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University and one of the authors of “The Influence of Media Violence on Youth” published by the American Psychological Society. But because kids get used to violent images quickly, the level of violence has to increase in order to keep their attention, and keep selling games. As Anderson says, “ if you want to get the attention of video gamers you have to keep them energized, you have to keep them attracted and attending to the stimuli. Of course the problem is people become desensitized to the initial levels (of violence) and require greater and greater doses of violence in order to have the same kind of (excitement and) reaction that used to be provoked by fairly mild levels.”

Anderson says research on violent media reveals unequivocal evidence that viewing violent films and TV shows increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior. But video and computer games can have the most profound influence on the behavior of children, simply because children retain a lot more information if they learn actively, rather than passively. It’s because of this interaction that violent video and computer games have such a powerful impact on children’s aggressive behavior. “One of the real interesting differences between video games and film or television is that video games are necessarily interactive – they involve active participation by the game player,” explains Anderson. “The game player has to assume the identity of one of the violent characters and essentially has to make decisions and take physical action, whether it be squeezing the trigger on a toy gun, or clicking a mouse button.”

So what can parents do about violent games? Anderson says the first step is awareness. Simply being mindful of the games children are playing may well be all it takes to encourage parents to lay down rules as to the types of games allowed in their home. “I think that for a lot of parents it will be quite a shocker and, once they see what it is that their kids are consuming, they won’t need an expert telling them to pay attention,” says Anderson. “They will, in fact, on their own say ‘you know this is not appropriate for my 6 year old or my 12 year old, so we’re going to make some changes in the rules of the household’.”

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Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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