Do Violent Video Games Really Lead to Aggressive Behavior?

Violent video games can influence the way your child behaves.
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Video games are a $10 billion industry. As the industry rapidly expands with new gaming systems and updated technology, there has been stiff competition to create the most realistic and interactive games.

Children are gaming at earlier ages and many of them are playing games meant for adults. From war games to car thefts, many of these games include graphic acts of violence.  

Some of the most popular games include violent images of people or animals being killed. Sexual exploitation, drug use, and criminal behavior are also depicted frequently. Sadly, many children spend countless hours each day absorbing these images.

While some parents claim video games have no effect on their child, many experts warn about the harmful effects violent games can have on kids.

What the Research Says About Violent Video Games

The research on the link between video games and aggressive behavior in children has been mixed. Certainly, some studies have shown that children who play violent video games do not exhibit any increased aggression.

But here are some studies that do indicate violent video games impact a child’s well-being and behavior: 

  • A 2007 study by the Swinburne University of Technology found that while some children became more aggressive, others became less aggressive. The vast majority did not show any changes in their levels of anger.
  • A 2010 study found that video games only lead to aggression in children with specific personalities. Children who were high in neuroticism and low in conscientiousness, for example, tended to become more aggressive after watching violent video games.
  • A 2011 study found that aggressive children tend to choose more violent video games. The researchers found no evidence that violent games caused aggression.
  • A 2011 study by the Center for European Economic Research found that although violent video games may promote aggressive behavior, they could actually reduce crime. Researchers suggest that children who spend more time playing video games have less time to engage in antisocial activities.

The American Psychological Association’s Stance

In 2015, the American Psychological Association released a statement that said there is a clear link between aggression and video game violence. This was based on a task force’s review of research conducted between 2005 and 2013.

The task force reports violent video games lead to decreased empathy and reduced prosocial behavior. The same statement acknowledges there is insufficient evidence of a link between violent video games and criminal behavior.

How to Set Healthy Limits on Video Games

If your child exhibits aggressive behavior, reducing his exposure to violent material could help. But even if you haven’t seen any signs of aggression, it’s important to monitor your child’s video game play. Watching acts of violence may desensitize your child to violent behavior.

Here are a few tips for setting healthy limits on video games:

  • Monitor what games your child is playing. Keep a close eye on the websites your child uses to access games online. Look for kid-friendly sites only. Know what type of games your child plays on his gaming systems as well.
  • Pay close attention to the ratings on video games and apps. Don’t allow your child to play games that may be too graphic or violent for his age group.
  • Play games with your child. Playing games together can give you insight into what types of games your child is playing. Talk about any unhealthy messages that a game may be sending.
  • Limit your child’s screen time. Spending countless hours in front of a computer monitor or gaming console can take a serious toll on your child’s physical and mental health. Set reasonable limits on screen time, even when the games are non-violent.
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