Video games have long been blamed for kids being violent. There are several examples that seem to prove the point too. Like the case in the U.K. where a kid was mugged for his copy of Grand Theft Auto 4 after he picked up his copy at release. And let’s not forget all of the drama unfolding in California about banning violent games entirely. The question becomes this: are violent video games really that big of a deal?
A recent release by the American Psychology Association seems to indicate quite the opposite. In a special issue of it’s Review of General Psychology publication entitled, “Video Games: Old Fears and New Directions,” Christopher J. Ferguson, expert in violence and video games and an associate professor at Texas A&M International University’s Department of Behavioral Sciences, finds that there is no conclusive evidence that links violence in reality to the violent video games that kids are playing.
“The bottom line is that while there’s been a lot of rhetoric and controversy surrounding violent videogames increasing violence in youth,” Ferguson said, “the data that exists does not support this connection,. There’s certainly still some debate on this, but the data is increasingly lining up to suggest that there’s really nothing here to be terribly worried about. I think that there’s a lot of rhetoric that’s making people scared, but that rhetoric is not based on a clear, objective, look at the data that exists.”
“The news cycle about video games tends to focuses on three main phenomena: the release of
controversial games, unsupported statements by nonscientists, and efforts to tie individual real-life violent crimes to violent games,” Ferguson says in his new research paper, “Blazing Angels or Resident Evil: Can Violent Video Games Be a Force for Good?”
Ferguson recently conducted a study of 600 kids between the ages of 10 and 14 in Texas to discover the root of their violent tendencies. The result of the study showed that mental health was the best predictor of the youth’s violent tendencies. The subjects who were depressed or showed anti-social tendencies were more prone to violence than others.
Another study, this time performed by Cheryl K. Olson, co-director of the Center for Mental Health and Media at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry, showed that games like Grand Theft Auto can help kids deal with their feelings.
“A game like the Grand Theft Auto can be played with friends in the same room, and it can be a great way to unleash anger after a bad day at school,” said Olson. “Kids would tell me, ‘I had a rotten day and I got a cheat code and used a tank and ran over everybody and then I felt calmer and better.’ And to a certain point, that’s probably fine. I think adults do similar things. I’d rather they did that than veg out in front of the TV.”
In dealing with the children, Olson was surprised to learn that kids were learning moral lessons from playing Grand Theft Auto too. At the end of the game, kids learned that power comes with a price and they couldn’t trust anyone in the virtual world of the game. All of the bad guys ended up dead on the streets or behind bars in jumpsuits.
Violence has been a part of children’s entertainment for longer than video games have been around. Fairy tales kids hear and even some children’s movies that kids watch have more violence in them than a lot of the video games that the same kids are playing.
“We’ve had Senate hearings on violence in comic books in the past,” Olson said, “and every new media from paperback books to television to movies and now video games has come under fire with violence.”
“What it boils down to,” Olson concludes, “is that there are no studies that link crime and video games. Although there may be fighting in the school yard or other normal behavior, I can’t say that kids are going to the hospital because of video games. And I can’t say that there is, evidently, any increase in crime because of video games.”
If you’re a parent worried about violence being prevalent in video games just take a look at what was revealed at E3. Microsoft and Sony both showed off motion controllers with games that are all family oriented. The Kinect, as a matter of fact, doesn’t seem to even have violent games at its launch; they’re all focused on getting off the couch and moving around, getting exercise and having a good time with your family and friends.
Ultimately, you parents have the ability to control what games your kids play. The ESRB ratings are right on the box of every game you buy so if you’re worried about violence, be sure to check the ratings.
[Story via What They Play]
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