Violent Video Games and Their Effects on Adolscents

The Problem

It’s no secret that kids and teenagers alike enjoy spending time playing video games. But many parents and politicians around the country are concerned that the violent nature of video games is having adverse – and possibly dangerous – effects on adolescents. Many of the games popular amongst adolescents portray violent and graphic content that can influence the minds and behaviors of young gamers.

The Content

Amongst the most infamous category of video game that is brought into question is known as the “First Person Shooter”: These are games designed for the player to assume the role of a protagonist in a war-like setting that rewards the player for stealing/looting and killing enemy players in order to completing an objective. One of the most popular games to ever be released that emulates these haphazard activities is Grand Theft Auto V. Since the game’s release, it became the  fastest-selling video game within 24 hours. Theft and violence aren’t the only predominant themes within the game, there’s also drug use. This 2015 tweet by a player shows a video of the player’s character smoking marijuana in the game.

The Effects

So what are the effects of the adolescent brain being exposed to excessive amounts of video game violence? Many parents cry out to censor the content of video games based on the premise that children exposed to violent content will inherently become violent and imitate the aggressive acts portrayed within games. In recent years, the public concern of violence in video games has arisen from violent incidents such as school shootings, leading the general public to believe that adolescents who are exposed to excessively to violent content in video games will attempt to reenact the events in real life. The 2007 article Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy, claims that correlational studies performed in the past 50 years that analyze all forms of violent media including television, movies, music, and video games have all proven to scientifically show a connection between exposure to violent media and aggressive/violent behavior. Repeated exposure to violence decreases overall sensitivity to violent situations, thereby making those who are desensitized more likely to see aggressive or violent acts as normal behavior; when presented with a conflict, these individuals are more likely to be indifferent to use of a violent response. The following video helps explain the physical effects of aggression and violence on the human brain.

 This audio clip looks into the research behind finding the effects of violent video games.

The Role of Parental Supervision

According to the American Psychological Association, 90 percent of teenagers say their parents never check video game ratings before allowing them to buy games. Games that portray violent and/or graphic content are given a rating of “M” (mature), meaning that the game cannot be purchased legally by someone under the age of 17. The rating system in place is intended to keep violent games out of the hands of adolescents in order to avoid children viewing graphic content. Many of the parents who claim that video game violence is corrupting their children are the same ones who are buying the games for their kids. In truth, all of the responsibility lies with the parents of children to not buy them the games and more importantly, to teach children the difference between what is real and what is just in games.

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