Violent video games and child aggression
Do children become more aggressive after playing video games or are aggressive kids more attracted to violent videos?
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Dec. 14 has left the world shocked and heartbroken. In the wake of 26 deaths, including 20 children, there is a desperate search for answers.
As the community of Newtown and the nation try to make sense of why an individual would carry out such devastation, gun control, mental health issues and violent video games have all been called into question.
As details unfold surrounding Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old Newtown shooter, his “strange” behavior and “obsession” with violent video games keeps surfacing. Lanza lived at his mother's colonial-style mansion, where he had two of the house's four bedrooms – one for himself and the other for the computer where he played violent video games, reports the The Telegraph.
According to express.co.uk, Lanza's favorite video game was said to be a shockingly violent fantasy war game called Dynasty Warriors. Was it a game or easy access to a deadly arsenal of guns – he reportedly learned how to shoot after his mother took him to local ranges - that inspired Lanza to carry out the deadly massacre?
The topic of virtual violence resulting in real life aggression has long been controversial. Are these games simply a fun hobby, or for children who may already be mentally or emotionally unstable, do these games have the ability to push someone over the edge?
A study by Dr. Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D., of Iowa State University in Ames looked at how children and teen's video game habits at one time related to their behavior three to six months later, reports CNN.com.Bing: The latest developments in the Connecticut school shooting.
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, cites the study. 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, reports CNN.com.
The findings are “pretty good evidence” that violent video games do indeed cause aggressive behavior, Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann, director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor was quoted on CNN.com.
"There is a real harm in children having exposure to violence, such as playing violent video games," says Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Debra Kissen, Ph.D., M.H.S.A. of Chicago, IL. "By playing violent video games, children (and adults) become desensitized to this content and therefore experience less of an emotional reaction to violence," says Kissen. "Therefore, violent behavior becomes normalized and becomes a more reasonable alternative when experiencing a conflict."
Other researchers have challenged the association between violent video game use and school shootings, saying that most of the young perpetrators had personality traits, which were apparent before the shootings and predisposed them to violence, reports the Harvard Mental Health Letter. These factors make it more difficult to accept the playing of violent games as an independent risk factor.
Do you think that violent video games trigger aggressive behavior in kids? Why or why not?
Photo: Image Source/Getty Images
I think our culture is desensitized to violence in general. Videogames don't help, certainly.
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