The Effects of Violent Video Games
Some studies have provided that playing violent video games causes growth in the risk for young persons to develop aggressive behavior affecting the progress of prosocial conduct. This research aimed at verifying if exposure to violent games is connected to problems of aggression and interpersonal relationships in a sample of elementary school students. Questionnaires were distributed between 50 children aged between 8 and 14 years going to school in Italy. The variables measured were aggression, coping strategies, and interpersonal relationships. Participants who preferred violent games indicated higher scores for aggression. There was an indication of a connection between playing violent video games, a person’s age, higher aggression levels, and the ability to develop coping strategies and how much time this student spends on video games per week. The data retrieved confirmed the role of violent video games as risk factors contributing to the development of prosocial problems, and an increase in aggressiveness levels in children and early adolescents. Hypothesis: participants who prefer playing video games with violent content present higher levels of aggressiveness and more interpersonal problems than those who are not exposed to violent video games.
Keywords: Video game, aggressive behavior, prosocial behavior
Video games are a well-known recreational activity for children and adolescents (Calvert & Richards, 2005). Their contents are often violent, as they require the players to injure or kill their opponents in order to progress in the game. Moreover, contemporary video games have a very high level of realism, having an even stronger influence on players, because of the rapid and constant evolution of the technology of personal computers and other devices (Ferguson, 2010).
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Video games are model teachers and are some of the most effective learning tools to which children and adolescents are exposed (Gentile & Gentile, 2008). Therefore, there is a likelihood of a realistic imitation of aggressive conduct demonstrated by the characters as the players are learning and practicing these violent patterns. Aggressive media adds to corresponding behavioral patterns through increasing arousal levels and creating a violent affective state (Bushman & Huesmann, 2014).
Since childhood, people are said to learn through perceiving, interpreting and responding to their environments (Ferguson, 2007). Some of the things on which they depend on knowledge are the media depictions of real and imaginary humans. It, therefore, becomes very difficult for people to change the knowledge acquired through watching and interacting with various episodes or games played (Anderson, Gentile, & Buckley, 2007).
Exposure to violent video games is linked to reduced kindness (Elson & Ferguson, 2013). Research has revealed that children who have been regularly playing violent video games show more likelihood of lacking empathy and are not inclined to positive actions that benefit other people (Carnagey, Anderson, & Bushman, 2007). Such children are more likely to display low ethical skills than those who have not been exposed to violent media (Ferguson, Trigani, Pilato, Miller, Foley, & Barr, 2016).
Violent media aggravates aggressive conduct, as the represented scenes affect stimulation and the application of information structures in the memory (Jaccarino, 2013). The audience is shown how to be aggressive which increases the risk of the violent affective condition development (Hasan, B?gue, Scharkow, & Bushman, 2013).
Questionnaires were delivered to 50 children attending school in Italy. The participants were aged between 8 and 14 (M= 12.5; SD= 1.02). The sample consisted of an equal number of female (25 participants; 50 %; mean age = 12.5; SD= 1.02) and male participants (25 participants; 50%; mean age = 12.5; SD= 1.02). Information was obtained from answers to the demographic questions of the questionnaires. All participants were of Italian ethnicity.
School principals approved the participation of their students in this research. They allowed data to be collected and informed the parents of the involved pupils about the study. The researchers explained students the aims of the survey and gave each participant an envelope to take to their parents. Each envelope contained documents describing the methods to be used in the study, the objectives of the research and the contact details of the person in charge of it. Additionally, there were consent forms among the documents that were to be signed by the parents before giving the questionnaires to their children. The day after the distribution of the envelops, persons conducting the experiment collected the signed consent forms and gave out the questionnaires among the students whose parents had signed the consent forms. Participants were informed that they were allowed to withdraw the study at any time.
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In this research, the dependent variables were an amount of time spent on playing video games, a number of students preferring violent video games, levels of aggression, and rates of prosocial conduct. The independent variables were age, gender, and ethnicity.
Content of the Survey
First of all, the number of hours spent by the participants on playing video games per day (in the previous month) was determined. For example, the students were to answer “0” if they had not played at all and “4” if they had played 4 hours every day. Moreover, the participants had to differentiate the number of hours they spend playing video games per school day and on weekends (as of the previous month). The students were to answer “0” if they had not played at all, “1” if they had spent an hour playing video games and “4” for four hours of playing.
Second, the level of exposure of the participants to violent scenes was determined. The students were to answer a corresponding question by using the five-point scale that ranged from 1 (I have never seen any) to 5 (I see them very often). There were 3 types of scenes listed in the question. The first category included violent scenes that were divided on those showing (1) characters verbally abusing each other, (2) shooting with guns or cutting with swords and those depicting (3) robot or airplane fights. The second type was prosocial and consisted of the scenes where characters are helping troubled people. The third category was sexual and included the scenes depicting characters kissing or a same-sex couple in a romantic situation.
Third, the types of video games that the subjects liked were identified. The students had to choose the category that they prefer the most among the violent (two items: games entailing beating enemies and games advancing a story as they fight the enemies) and non-violent games (four items: sports games, life simulations, music games, and puzzle games), and choose one type from the listed above which they like in general.
Fourth, the researchers developed one more five-point scale, where 1 meant “None” and 5 – “Very often” to measure the participants’ frequency of demonstrating prosocial and the aggressive behavioral patterns during the previous month. For instance, the alternative “I punched others” was listed as aggressive conduct, and “I was kind to other people” was listed as a prosocial one.
The following findings were made as a result of the conducted research.
Boys play video games at least 4 hours per day during workweeks and at least 1hour per day on weekends. Girls, in their turn, spend at least 2 hours (workweeks) and less than 1 hour (weekends) on the mentioned activity. Therefore, boys spend more time playing video games both on weekdays and on weekends as compared to girls.
Moreover, boys are more exposed to violent scenes than girls. There is no significant difference between girls and boys when it comes to prosocial scenes. However, girls were more exposed to sexual scenes as compared to boys.
Next, the category “games entailing beating of opponents”, which was listed as a violent game, appears to be the most preferred and, at the same time, the one they liked in general. This means that majority of elementary school students like the games containing violence.
Finally, girls have a higher score in terms of demonstrating prosocial behavior as compared to boys. This suggests that an increase in the time spent on playing video games during weekdays will probably reduce the rate of prosocial conduct for all subjects. There is no major difference between boys and girls when it comes to aggressive behavior. However, subjects who play violent video games for more hours daily are more aggressive when compared to those more inclined to non-violent genres.
This research sought to examine if video games have adverse effects on the aggressive and prosocial behaviors of children using the following variables; the level of exposure of schoolchildren to particular scenes of video games, time spent on playing video games on weekdays and weekends, the preferences for games among children, and the frequency of demonstrating aggressive and prosocial Behaviors. Both girls and boys are showing more prosocial patterns pf conduct if playing non-violent games. Participants who prefer violent games are seen to demonstrate more aggressive behavioral patterns and less prosocial ones. This research confirmed the hypothesis that children who prefer playing video games with violent content have higher aggression levels and more interpersonal problems as compared to those who choose non-violent games. The effects of violent games on children and early adolescents cannot, therefore, be ignored. Parents should ensure that their children are not disposed to violent media as their influence was proven to be adverse.