Violent Gaming l January 2015
While kids everywhere play violent videogames, parents wonder about negative effects from all that shooting, maiming and killing. Some scientific research is worth our attention.
It’s no surprise that research has documented increased physical and psychological arousal in the aftermath of violent gaming. Of particular concern is the finding that such games result in ruder and more insensitive behavior toward others immediately after the game playing.i The effect has been found to last up to nine minutes — long enough to be an issue if your game-playing youngster rejoins family activity immediately upon leaving the game console. Observe your child’s re-entry after violent gaming. Perhaps there would be benefit from a “cooling down” period — chilling out with a book or non-stimulating TV show — so he or she is better positioned to bring courtesy and sensitivity to others, and to exercise self-control.
Researchers are concerned that over the long term, violent gaming leads to desensitization — violent images stop having any impact after enough regular exposure. There’s evidence that areas of the brain responsible for empathy in particular, show negative changes among teens exposed to violent images over long periods of time, leading to what some researchers describe as a kind of moral immaturity.ii Speculation is that excessive violent gaming may be replacing traditional, positive social experiences in a youngster’s life — hanging out with friends, participating in extra-curricular clubs and activities, reading or watching TV — allowing the games’ values to carry undue influence when it comes to the development of an accurate sense of right and wrong.iii
Parents might be wise to set time limits on violent game play (while endorsing non-violent videogames), and make a point of educating youngsters (through film, television, books and especially conversation) about the suffering that results from even relatively minor violence. The goal is to promote in our sons and daughters the development of empathy and a recognition that senseless violence must never be treated casually or with indifference.
i Barlett, Christopher, et al. How long do the short-term violent video game effects last? Aggressive Behavior, Volume 35, Issue 3, May/June 2009, pages 225–236.
ii Brock, Bastian et al. Cyber-dehumanization: Violent video game play diminishes our humanity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 48, Issue 2, March 2012, pages 486–491.
iii Bajovic, Mirjana. Violent video gaming and moral reasoning in adolescents: is there an association? Educational Media International, Volume 50, Issue 3, 2013, pages 177-191.