This page is based on research from Iowa State University on the effects of playing violent video games on young people, children and adults.
By a conservative estimate, about 50% of male children and teens regularly play violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto, in Newark, NJ.
In Newark, NJ violent video games are the norm for pre-adolescent and young adolescent boys. Some play violent video games directly after school daily, others even play violent video games on school computers and video equipment. In one grade and middle school, pre-adolescents and young teens play violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto on handheld electronic units. They play during lunch recess in the school cafeteria and even in class during class parties or at the end of the year when classwork slows down.
A group of young boys use handheld units linked by satellite to virtually kill each other with handheld units in the school cafeteria during lunch break while other students play in the playground. In one school in Newark, middle school students choose between an arsenal of a dozen or so high-powered rifles and machine guns to commence their opportunity to engage in virtual combat in the school library.
Halo is a violent game popular with boys and even some teachers.
In another school, as the year winds to an end, students use the school video equipment and large screen television for complete periods of Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games. By a conservative estimate, at least 50% of boys in Newark ages 11 to 14 regularly play violent video games.
Violent Video Games, School Policy, Teachers and Parents
While schools usually have policies that regulate video game use on school equipment or in school itself, and while one principal in a school where violent video games within school were a recurring if not pervasive problem, described an ongoing “war against electronic devices,” the problem persists partly because the policies are not strictly enforced and because teachers often don’t respond unless students are not doing their schoolwork or if they are disrupting the class or other students.
One manager of a video game store in Paterson, NJ stated that children often come to the store with their parents to purchase very violent video games. He states that he warns the parents about the violence and that the video game is labeled “M” for Mature, similar to an “R” rating for movies, but that 8 out of 10 times, parents disregard the warning and purchase the game, especially if the children persist.
Violent Video Games and Television - Effect on Children and Young Adults
Do violent video games affect children negatively? Evidence indicates that the answer to this question is yes.
Research by psychologists at Iowa state indicate that violent video games and television (by interpolation, violent movies as well), contribute to attention problems in children and young adults. The research indicates that screen time in general contributes to attention problems in both children and college age students, and that children who engage in more than two hours of screen time per day (the American Academy of Pediatrics - AAP - recommends no more than two hours of screen time daily for children), were 50 to 100 percent more likely to be above average in attention problems.
"There isn't an exact number of hours when screen time contributes to attention problems, but the AAP recommendation of no more than two hours a day provides a good reference point," said Edward Swing, an Iowa State psychology doctoral candidate and lead researcher in the study. "Most children are way above that. In our sample, children's total average time with television and video games is 4.26 hours per day, which is actually low compared to the national average."
Authors of the study included Associate Professor of Psychology Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University (ISU) and Craig Anderson, a Distinguished professor of psychology, as well as David Walsh, a Minneapolis psychologist. The research was published in the August issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the AAP.
The new research confirms previous studies which correlate attentional problems with excess TV viewing, but also affirmatively links and includes video game time with that pattern.
Television and Video Games - Link with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
The study also indicates that screen time, including video games and television may be linked as a causal effect for ADHD. ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and there are various subtypes of ADHD, some of which do not necessarily include hyperactivity. If television and video game time contributes to attention problems, and if ADHD, or what was previously referred to as ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, largely involves problems with attention, it is easy to see the link.
"ADHD is a medical condition, but it's a brain condition," Gentile said. "We know that the brain adapts and changes based on the environmental stimuli to which it is exposed repeatedly. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to believe that environmental stimuli can increase the risk for a medical condition like ADHD in the same way that environmental stimuli, like cigarettes, can increase the risk for cancer."
"Although we did not specifically study the medical condition of ADHD in these studies, we did focus on the kinds of attention problems that are experienced by students with ADHD," added Swing. "We were surprised, for example, that attention problems in the classroom would increase in just one year for those children with the highest screen time." Gentile qualifies his statements on ADHD with the fact that there are many factors that can contribute to ADHD, and that screen time is just one factor.
Violent Video Games Contributes to Aggressive Behavior and Decreases Prosocial Behavior and Attitudes
Further research by Distinguished Professor Craig Anderson and as reported in the March 2010 issue of Psychological Bulletin, a journal of the American Psychological Association, concludes that playing violent video games promotes aggressiveness in children and adolescents, as well as decreasing prosocial behavior in those that play these type of games.
“We can now saw with utmost confidence that regardless of research method – that is experimental, correlational, or longitudinal -- or regardless of the cultures tested in this study [East and West], you get the same effects,” said Anderson who also is director of Iowa State’s Center for the Study of Violence. “and the effects are that exposure to violent video games increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior in both short-term and long-term contexts. Such exposure also increases aggressive thinking and aggressive affect, and decreases prosocial behavior.”
Violent Video Games and Excessive Television - Possible Economic Repercussions to the Public School System
Taking it a step further, it is easy to see how the effects of violent video game use on children and young adults could result in an economic and human resources drain on already strained school systems. If such contributes to ADHD and to aggressive behavior, then more children and teens who enter the special education system as a result. Classrooms are disrupted by aggressive behavior of students which ultimately lowers the quality of education of the public school system and the general atmosphere of the classroom.
Solutions involve educating both parents, teachers and administrators of schools, who are in a position to pass information and educate parents on this matter. This can have a positive long-term impact on the mental health profile of a generation that is being raised on violent video games, and at least contribute to a strong counter-movement against this trend.
Reference to Violent Video Games Effects Page
ISU study proves
conclusively that violent video game
play makes more aggressive kids
Iowa State University News Service.
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