Do Violent Video Games Make Kids Violent? A New ‘Pediatrics’ Study Says Yes, They Do

For as long as there have been violent video games, parents, doctors, legislators, and the gaming industry have argued with each other about whether or not violent video games make kids more violent. Now, a new study concludes that violent video games do, in fact, make kids more violent, CBC News is reporting.

In a study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics, entitled “Virtual Violence,” lead author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, says that kids these days are almost saturated with opportunities to experience violent video games (and violent movies), traditional video game consoles (such as PS4 or Xbox One, for example), computers, mobile devices, and soon, virtual reality devices.

And once virtual reality — which completely immerses the player in the gaming experience — becomes the video game standard, the line between fantasy and reality, as far as kids are concerned, is going to get particularly blurry. And that worries Dr. Christakis.

“Very soon it’s going to be virtual reality violent video games. That makes the experience that much more intense and the recommendations that much more important.”

He’s even given a new name to the phenomenon: Virtual Violence.

“We’ve switched from calling it screen aggression or screen violence to virtual violence to capture the more immersive ways children can experience media violence today.”

The matter of whether or not violent video games contribute to violent behavior in children (and adults, for that matter), remains hotly debated. And one study is not the final word on the matter, especially considering that other studies have reached different conclusions.

According to a March, 2016, report in the Telegraph, a study conducted by England’s Oxford University concluded that violent video games do not increase aggression in children.

The study, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, concluded that the amount of time kids spend playing video games — violent or otherwise — plays a much larger role in behavior problems in children than does the content of those games. Further, the study concluded that kids who play video games with other kids — either in person or via the internet — actually have fewer behavioral problems than kids who play alone.

“Taken together, this suggests that quantity may play a larger role than the quality of games played — a counter intuitive finding for many focused on the violent contents of some gaming contexts. These findings do not support the idea that regular violent game play is linked to real world violence or conflict.”

violent video games kids
Despite the contradictory conclusions reached by competing studies, from a parenting standpoint, it makes sense that parents limit how much time their kids spend playing video games, violent or otherwise. Besides limiting how much time kids spend on video games, Dr. Christakis’ study gives several other recommendations for reducing for violent behavior in kids brought on by video games.

  • Kids under six should never be allowed to play violent video games, because at that age they can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
  • Parents should keep their kids away from games that simulate shooting living targets — humans or animals especially — with bullets.
  • Lawmakers should make it harder for kids to access violent content, and create a ratings system that is “clearer and more user-friendly” than the current system.
  • The video game industry should make games for kids that don’t focus so much on violence.

Do you believe that kids who play violent video games are more likely to become violent in real life?

[Image via Shutterstock/IAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV]