|Does video game violence actually affect children? A recent study conducted by Iowa State University psychologists says yes. Their study shows that “brief exposure to violent video games can cause a reduction in normal physiological reactivity to images of real violence.” This process is the same desensitization process that is used to help people get over fears of spiders or flying. Dr. Craig Anderson, one of the researchers involved in the study, says, “Basically, we introduce young children to very playful, fun, cartoonish forms of violence, with little or no blood, no real consequences to the victim or friends and family of the victim.” As children grow “more realistic and more threatening elements” are added. Eventually we have adults “accustomed to and comfortable with seeing lots of blood and gore, with an exaggerated view of how much violence exists or is “normal” in modern society, and with belief systems that are supportive of use of aggression or violence.”|
Some critics say that studies don’t accurately predict what would happen in real life. But Dr. Anderson responds that, “there is research showing that decreased sensitivity to images of violence is associated with decreased helping and increased aggressive behavior in real life situations.” In fact they have a study soon to be published that shows “a significant decrease in helping by those who had just played a violent video game.”
But haven’t children, especially boys, always played violent games? Of course children have. I remember many instances where my little brother shot me while playing Cops and Robbers. But the biggest difference is that my brother didn’t actually hurt me. If he had he would have been in trouble. Dr. Anderson also explains that media violence “depicts forms and graphic details of violence (such as blood, body parts) that are not a part of children’s play at cops and robbers,” or seen in older western or James Bond type films.
So how can parents combat the desensitization to violence in their children? The answer is simple regulate what your child watches and plays. We have a Playstation. But we are very picky about what type of games my son is allowed to play. Only games that are rated E for everyone are allowed.
We recently learned that my son was playing Teen and Mature rated games at a friend’s house, who coincidentally is an aggressive child with bullying tendencies. So we discussed why these games were not appropriate for my son to play. I talked about the violence that is in the games and how it can affect him. He agreed that he would only play E rated games. I showed him where he could find the rating on the back of the game so he could check before playing it. I was happy to learn that he was obeying the rule when he told me that he was sad he couldn’t play “The Fantastic Four” at his friend’s because it was rated T for Teen. Since then the parents of my son’s friend decided to not let him play the violent video games anymore because I didn’t allow my son too.
Dr. Anderson also tells parents to talk about negative effects of violence in the media as well as violence in the real world and the consequences. “Teaching children and adolescents to think of non-aggressive and non-violent solutions to various types of conflict, letting them know your values concerning the inappropriate use of aggression and violence, seems to help.”
At some future point, like when my son’s a teenager, we will probably allow him to play some T rated games like “The Fantastic Four” but there will still be many games that he will not be allowed to play because of the violence found within them. So talk to your kids about violence and make sure you are monitoring the violence that they see in the media and in video games.