Influence of Video Games on Youth in Promoting Violent Behavior
Video games are one of the oldest activities for children in which they used to take part in different scenarios by sitting in front of the TV. However, the trend of fighting video games nowadays has become high as compared to others, and especially boys are very much interested in fighting games. Fighting games take over the mind of children as violent games; these games increase the rate of aggression and violence among teens. Due to these fighting games, children rehearse the fighting methods during normal life. They perceive that they have the same superpower as their favorite character and to prove this they use the illegal paths.
Video game controversies lead to a wide range of debates about the social influences of video games on players and society and discussions within the video game industry. Advocates of video games have highlighted their use as an expressive medium, arguing for their protection under the laws governing freedom of speech and also as an educational tool. Critics, however, argue that video games are dangerous and therefore should be subject to juridical oversight and restrictions. The pros and cons of video games are the subjects of scientific study and research surveys. Scholastic research has examined the correlation of video games with addiction, aggression, depression, and social violence.
The experts are divided into diverse opinions regarding the potential harms of video games on the youth. The studies suggest that the demeanor of youth may become more aggressive after playing violent video games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D or Mortal Kombat, etc. However, in the majority of cases, playing violent video games may be part of everyday growth, primarily in boys, and a reasonable source of fun too. It is, however, the responsibility of both parents and the state to take effective measures to minimize its toxic effects.
According to the 2008 Pew Research Center report, 97% of youth between the ages 12 to 18 played different video games, and two-third of them played action and adventure games that contain violent content. Another analysis has disclosed that almost half of the video games rated by ESRB contain violent content, and unfortunately, these games are considered appropriate for children of age 10 or older.
Some gender-base researches have concluded that boys are more likely to like and frequently play violent video games than girls. Regardless of having high proportion of population, women is less likely to be deviant and juvenile delinquent. Thus, it proves the widespread fact that crime is almost always committed by men as stated in gender- base crime studies.
A study deduced that the association between playing violent video games and depression was consistent among boys, but not among the girls. It can be the case that playing violent video games is a gender-based behavior which needs to be explored fully. Findings from survey demonstrated that only 2.2% of girls reported playing high-violence video games for two or more hours per day.
Correspondence between Video Games & Real-life Violence
The views ratified by the organizations like American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that exposure to violent games can lead to real-life violent behavior and they harm children in different ways. But the validity of research has been questioned by other experts. However, both opponents of the research agree that parents can play their roles in reducing the destructive consequences of violent video games.
Several experts have challenged the popular notion that video games cause violence. Some experts participated in research papers on the particular issue of the Review of General Psychology, published in June 2010. In research, It is argued that many studies on the problem of media violence rely on measures to access aggression that does not relate to real-world violence. Additionally, many are just observational approaches that don’t verify cause and effect. The federal criminal justice agency disclosed that serious violent crimes among youth have decreased since 1996, even as video game sales have uplifted.
Genetics & Environmental Factors
Some researchers have challenged the co-relation between video games and criminal activities, reporting that most juvenile offenders already have anger and aggression. Therefore, It’s hard to believe that playing video games is the only source of aggressive behavior.
One of the reports quoted that “No individual risk element consistently governs a person to behave violently. Rather, it is the hybrid of risk factors that tends to govern to hostile or violent behavior,”. And violent video game is one such risk factor, the report added. The other contributing factors are lack of parental supervision, family size, teenage parenthood, maltreatment, home discord, antisocial parents, domestic abuse, injustice, bullying, divorced or separated parents, parental psychopathology, economic fallout, psychological ill-being, lack of communication and peer rejection, or low self-esteem, etc.
Family Environment & Aggression
For those who belong to a well-settled household, exposure to violent video games had a slight direct impact on aggression. However, for those with a poor family environment, it had both direct and indirect effects exacerbated by normative beliefs about aggression.
Domestic violence and lack of parental monitoring have crucial impacts on teenagers’ aggression. The family environment shapes adolescents’ cognitive abilities and behavioral models. Many studies have confirmed that family violence, divorced or separated parents, and other adverse factors are positively related to adolescent’s aggression. Parental attention, mediation & supervision can diminish the relationship between media violence exposure and normative beliefs about aggression. They are closely linked to decreased aggression caused by violent media.
Normative Beliefs About Aggression
The normative opinions about aggression are one of the most crucial cognitive factors influencing adolescent’s aggression. It has two basic types: general beliefs and retaliatory beliefs. The former refers to a conventional view about aggression, while the latter indicates aggressive beliefs in inciting situations. Normative notions about aggression indicate the degree of acceptance of aggression, which entails the choice of adverse behavior. An inquiry report inferred that young perpetrators revealed their interests in violent media, including movies, books, or video games.
Cognitive Abilities, Video Games & Aggression
Playing games for a long-time result in sleep deprivation, insomnia, depression, aggression, and anxiety. Exposure to extreme violence – commonly found in video games – can desensitize teens and adults to such violence provoking emotional problems that lead young people to commit acts of violence. Resultantly, they are subject to shooting, suicide, fighting, gang violence, robbery, assault, and murder. Though, more studies are needed to establish the validity and the strength of these connections.
According to research findings, players with excessive video gaming have a higher level of aggression and lower cognitive ability, and the majority of them are male. The time spent playing video games results in emotionless aggression and weak common sense. Hence, if video gaming is played with appropriate time and under firm supervision, this may help to manage aggression and grow the cognitive ability of players. Studies have analyzed the relationship between daily violent video game playing over the past year and depression in large. Playing high-violence video games for more than two hours per day is significantly associated with having a higher number of depressive symptoms. This association was consistent across all racial and ethnic subgroups and among boys especially.
Social Learning Theories
Two fundamental social learning theories demonstrate how interactions and associations lead person towards violent behavior.
Differential Association Theory
Children learn by observing and adopting different behaviors during their interaction with others. It is explained in Differential Association Theory established by Edwin Sutherland. Learning can occur through other media as well like TV, movies, and social media. But the video game is more savage as it is both interactive and encourages role-playing. The action video games encourage illegal, immoral, and violent behavior. They contain some messages that support breaking rules. Those exposed to such games have more tendency to become lawbreakers, hostile and delinquent.
Social Bond Theory
According to Travis Hirschi’s social bond theory, those individuals who have strong and ongoing bonding with traditional society (in the form of attachment, involvement, investment, and belief) have less chances to deviate than persons who have weak social bonds. Thus, antisocial and naive teenagers, instead of rejoicing social gatherings tend towards playing indoor video games. Thus, lack of commitment to goals, involvement in work, and attachment with family and friends cause deviant behavior.
By Dr. Patrick Markey & Dr. Charlotte Markey
According to the research by Dr. Patrick Markey of Villanova University and Dr. Charlotte Markey of Rutgers University, playing and watching violent video games can cause aggression in some children but does not affect all of them.
The research deduced that three major personality traits collectively work to make a child act aggressively. These traits were identified as 1. Neuroticism (being angry, and annoying, highly emotional, and easily upset), 2. disagreeableness (cold, indifferent to other people), and 3. Low levels of conscientiousness (prone to acting without thinking, failing to deliver on commitments, halting rules).
The researchers establish that particular circumstances can enhance susceptibility to violent video games. They include placing video game consoles in children’s bedrooms and letting the elder siblings play games with kids (of age less than 18). In this research, playing video games with older siblings had increased the risk of children acting violently.
The investigators inferred that video games and other online activities have become so widespread among youth that they have modified the way young people socialize, enjoy, and learn.
Research by American Medical Associations
The six different American Medical Associations researched the influences of violent media in which it was argued that exposure to violence constitutes a negative impact on children. They learn illegal and delinquent patterns of behavior that increase the level of aggression. These effects may cause a lifetime effect.
Likewise, Bartholow, Bushman, and Sestir also remarked that there are two different types of violent video games. These include high violent video games and low-violent video games. They continued that players of high violent video games become more desensitize to violence as compared to that of the players that play low violent video games that may cause aggression in their behavior.
Study by Carnagey
Additionally, Carnagey and his colleagues conducted experimental research and remarked that continuous exposure to violent video games is linked with a reduction in cardiovascular signs of negative emotional feelings to violent scenes.
Similarly, Bushman, Bonacci, Van Dijk, &Baumeister explained the outcomes of violent video games. They asserted that violent video games make the players less empathetic towards others. They also face the problem of self-serving interpretations and an elevated sense of entitlement.
Video Games & Pakistani Youth
The most commonly played video games in Pakistan are Counter-Strike, PUBG, and GTA, all full of explicit content, abusive language, gangs, mafias, and violence. It has made the youth highly aggressive, lazy, deviant, and unproductive. The positivity of them, however, can not be ignored. Non-violent games improve essential skills like management, leadership, competitiveness, multitasking, and decision-making. They help youth in their character-building and personality-enhancing traits.
Obsession of PUBG
The addiction of world’s most popular online game Players’ Unknown Battle Ground (PUBG) has caused massive mass destruction in Pakistan.
In April 2021, the Silandriya Colony of Lahore has witnessed a mass murder. The culprit was identified as Rana Bilal. He first shot his elder brother and then turned his gun towards his sister-in-law. When his mother and sister tried to intervene, he shot both of them as well. Then, he pursued his employee, who was hiding in the washroom. After killing him by firing three shots, he ran into the streets and reloading his gun like a PUBG-obsessed player. He was later taken into custody by local police.
Another report made the headline in which a teenager committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan of his house just because he had missed an assigned task in the game Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The police confirmed that Mohammad Zakarya, age 16, took the extreme step for not completing his task while playing the online game.
PTA Banned PUBG
Due to massive bloodshed caused by the PUBG game, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has decided to ban PUBG violent video games. The Authority made decision after a hearing conducted in PTA on July 2020 on the orders of the Lahore High Court.
To put it into a nutshell, teenagers often construct their behavior while playing through observation and interaction. So when they spend a lot of time playing violent video games, it destroys their personality and creates a negative impression on their behavior. Adolescents admitted that the result of the game affects their mood directly. Also, shouting and mood swings become very prominent after playing video games. Losing the game makes them angry resultantly they behave abnormally. Learning theories deduce that playing violent video games raises the level of hostility among kids. The theory concludes that children imitate what they see. Most of them learn through copying things that they see while playing and interacting. So children are coping and imitating those acts which they play in video games.
Video game violence poses a threat to public health as it adds to real-world violence and aggression. Research unveils that video games and film violence add to both a short-term and a long-term increase in aggression and violence in youth. Violent video content results in increasing violence, in the forms of false suicides and acts of aggression. These games can increase aggression and violence in the short term – although no long-term studies capable of demonstrating long-term results have yet been conducted. The connection between media violence and real-world violence and aggression is due to the nature of the media content and aspects of social influences on the individual exposed to that content. Yet, the overall size of the effect is big enough to place it in the category of known warnings to public well-being.
Contrary to that youth describes video games as fun giving and exciting for they can be used to counter boredom. While, parents view them as isolating and antisocial for youth. For many youth, violent content is not trouble at all. Boys are particularly motivated to play them to compete, win and have fun. Thus, in this context, violent video games are no more than an activity that boys engage in as part of normal development and fun. However, their side effects should not be overlooked.
The main dilemma is that there is no guideline for the children which aids them to choose the right type of game. They lack knowledge about the content of video games. This is the responsibility of the parents to guide their children that what should they play and what should be avoided. Moreover, they should have proper supervision at them. Parents should set a timetable for their children spending time online. In this way, children can be protected from the toxic effects of violence through video games as a source of entertainment for children.
The following hypothesis can be drawn from the above research base analysis.
Hypothesis 1: There is a strong positive correlation between exposure to violent video games and juvenile delinquency.
Hypothesis 2: Normative ideas about aggression are the arbitrators of exposure to violent video games and juvenile delinquency.
Hypothesis 3: The domestic environment and family relationships can suppress the destructive outcomes of normative beliefs about aggression in exposure to violent video games and juvenile delinquency.
Hypothesis 4: Social learning theory is the substantial violence deciding factor.
Video games are much likely the same as other pursuits that are enjoyable and rewarding but may become hazardous sometimes. Parents can best guard their children by engaging with them and providing limits, supervision, and guidance where necessary. It is the moral duty of parents to protect their children from the possible outrage of video games. Especially if they are concerned that their children might get exposed to the harmful effects of violent content. The following suggestions can be helpful in this regard.
- Review the ESRB ratings to know better about the content of a video game.
- Encourage children to participate in social activities and outdoor games. This will help them engage with peers in person rather than online.
- Place video consoles and computers in common areas of the house, rather than in children’s bedrooms.
- Set the limited time to play video games. According to AAP recommendations, total screen time per day should not exceed two hours including all related screen media.
- Sort out creative ways to allow games and tech time, balanced with outdoor or creative non-tech activities.
- Make sure that games are appropriate in terms of both age and content.
- Observe how your children interact with violent video games and then behave differently.
- Researches suggest that gaming dysfunction affects only a tiny proportion of people involved in online gaming. So, don’t be panic but cautious.
- The government of Pakistan should make Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). It will help parents/children to choose right type of game after checking the ratings.
- The federal government should take action against the commercial sale and online availability of violent video games. Violent video games should better be banned.
The writer is an NUST Graduate, working as a content writer at Millions News Limited.