Effects of Video Games on Youth Violence
Youth violence is a growing concern in today’s society and with the spurt of technology, video games are becoming increasingly popular and easily accessible by the new generation. The root of the problem has been a matter of debate in society, and a topic for research for psychologists and clinicians. Different approaches and methods have been used to try to identify the cause of aggression among young people. This paper will particularly discuss the influence of video games on youth violence and will examine and evaluate the articles and research linking the two.
In order to assess the effects of video games on youth violence, it is important to first understand youth violence. Violence is considered to be a consequence of ‘deeper-seated needs’ (McAra&McVie 2016, para 38 ) and it can be triggered by many factors in a child’s or adolescent’s life. Often, to identify the cause of aggression, external factors such as social and cultural conditioning are strongly considered. Children of vulnerable backgrounds such as poverty or with history of abuse are generally considered to be more prone to violent outbursts. ‘Violence becomes a resource for disempowered young people to negotiate such pathways, gaining status and a sense of self-worth through violent encounters’ (McAra&McVie 2016,para 1). Video games can serve a similar purpose and can be used as a resource through which young people can gain status and perhaps even self-worth through violent encounters online. The question is; do video games provide a way through which young people can express their negative energy without actually hurting anyone or do they root more violent outburst and ideas in the developing minds of the young players?
Research on the topic of violent media content has been conducting since the 1960s and the evidence has suggested that exposure to such content increases the risk of violent behaviour among viewers as Huesmann notes in his article on the impact of media violence(Huesmann,2007). His article is particularly useful as it links the theoretical explanation to the empirical research and highlights the importance of how and why. He compares exposure to media violence to exposure to violence in real life and says it can have similar detrimental effect. His theoretical explanations seem to back up the dilemma, indirectly suggesting that violent video games could result in violent behaviour in the viewer as ‘the observation of violence in the real world—among family members, among peers, and within the community—also stimulates aggressive behavior in the observer.’ (Huesmann 2007) Children are in stage of development and they are easily influenced by daily experiences whether they are real life situations or exposure to media.
Anderson and Bushman meta-analysis(2010) is particularly useful when discussing the matter as it focuses specifically on violent video games and draws a clear conclusion based on empirical evidence. According to their analysis there is certainly a link between violent video games and antisocial behaviour. Meta-analyses prove to be beneficial in summarizing the overall data when conducted systematically as it can clear uncertainties, however it can sometimes be misleading as the studies and data used might be prejudiced. For example, the professional group APA claimed to have conducted extensive research and released their first policy statement in 2005 which indicated a link present. even though their claims seemed reasonable, Ferguson along with Copenhaver analysed their documents and discovered that the APA ‘ignored inconsistencies and methodological problems in the research data.’ (Ferguson, 2018, para 12) In 2015 APA updated their policy but they were again criticized by over 200 scholars who objected them for being biased and ‘lacking transparency’ (Ferguson 2018)
In order to really establish whether there is a direct, long term effect of video games on youth violence longitudinal studies are crucial. In 2008 doctors and researchers conducted a longitudinal study to test the hypothesis. The contrast of culture was significant as it allowed them to see what role culture plays in predisposal to violence.( Anderson et al, 2008). The difference in the age groups assessed might have played an adverse part in the study as the prime age of youth violence is considered to be 13 and the age groups assessed were ranging from 12-18 in Japan but only from 9-12 in the USA. Two important factors controlled, however, were sex and previous signs of aggression. In three separate samples they assessed the participants’ video games habits and their physically aggressive tendencies at two points in time, at three and six months. Even though their results found that habitually playing violent video games increases the risk of aggression and it can have a harmful effect on children’s development which contradicts the hypothesis that risk lays mainly with minors already predisposed to aggression.
Whilst a lot of the research done on the matter concludes that violent content present in video games has a negative impact on children’s behaviour as their brains are shaping with every experience, there are gaps and inaccuracies as a result of dispositional and situational factors that are hard to control in a study and future research should aim to exert control on. When considering violent video games exposure and its possible effect, it’s important to look into which groups are more likely to even play such games in the first place and if the underlying causes are not the actual root of youth violence.
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