Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children
research has shown that connections between children playing
violent video games can cause later aggressive behavioral
problems. In retrospect studies have also shown a twelve percent
increase in aggressive behavior after watching violent
television as well. Some
parents and psychologists have said that there are children
who benefit from the proficiency and coordination of playing
video games while others disagree.
Critics of video games claim that watching violent
television is less detrimental due to the children not
physically playing out the violence.
has also shown heavy viewers, which is four or more hours a
day, put in less effort at school, have poorer reading skills,
play less friendly with friends, have fewer hobbies and
activities, and are more likely to be overweight.
The American Psychological Association says there are
three major effects of watching violence in the media (i.e.:
video games/television) children may become less sensitive to
the pain and suffering of others, children may be more fearful
of the world around them, and children may be more likely to
behave in aggressive or hurtful ways toward others.
Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children
that children see or hear in the media early on in their lives
affects them in some
parenting role models indicate that in the best interest of
our children we should limit their exposure to violent acts.
Unfortunately, violence is one of the most popular
forms of entertainment. Over
sixty percent of television shows being shown in prime time
contain some form of violence. There
are two very opposite sides of this issue.
The media who market the violent television, video
games and other forms of entertainment argue this is safe
entertainment and the others argue that violence promotes
research tends to agree with the proponents who argue that
violent media is associated with aggressive behavior. Risky
behavior by children and young adults can include violence
against others, lack of remorse for consequences.
The type of faulty thinking creates stressors in
children which can lead to the onset of many different
who view media violence are more likely to have increased
feelings of hostility, decreased emotional response to the
portrayal of violence and injury that lead to violent behavior
through imitation. An
example here would be the television show Jack Ass.
There have been several accidents related to young men
attempting stunts that are done on
the show. The act
of imitating what they have seen on a television show causes
injury to themselves or others around them.
Academy of Pediatrics says “More than one thousand
scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant
exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive
behavior in certain children, desensitizes them to
violence and makes them believe that the world is
a ‘meaner and scarier’ place than it is.”
If children begin to think that this type of
violence is normal behavior these thoughts are often
said to be difficult to change later on in life. This is similar to the studies of domestic violence where children
who are exposed to violence either become offenders
or victims because they believe that what they are
exposed to is the norm. One instance that brought the worry of violence in media is
the Columbine incident.
The two young men that committed this act of
violence were said to have played numerous hours of
violent video games.
Their exposure to violence is said to have
been the cause since the children involved in Columbine
came from secure home environments with active parental
with Michael Carneal, from Kentucky, who in 1997 shot
and killed three of his classmates. He too was also said to have been a video game fanatic.
Michael Breen an attorney in the case against
Michael Carneal stated in court; “Michael Carneal
clipped off nine shots in a 10-second period.
Eight of those shots were hits.
Three were head and neck shots and were kills.
That is way beyond the military standard for
This was a kid who had never fired a pistol
in his life, but because of his obsession with computer
games he had turned himself into an expert marksman”
(Ivory, 2003), (Hanson, 1999, p. 15).
These two instances in a whole may be small
evidence however, proves that violent media play a
role in such violence.
from researchers suggests that performing violent acts in
video games may be more contributing to children's aggression
than passively watching violent acts on television. According
to this view, the more children practice violent acts, the
more likely they are to perform violent acts (Cesarone, 1994).
In most video games women are usually portrayed as
persons who are acted upon rather than as initiators of
action, in the extreme they are depicted as victims.
Games such as, Grand Theft Auto promote prostitution,
theft, and violent behavior.
This game encourages males to act out these behaviors
to move further along in the game.
The movie the Matrix for example was said to be the
triggering factor to the violent high school students that
wore trench coats. They
were eventually arrested for trying to play out their role as
“The One.” Research
has found that males play video games more often than women
which may be the producing factor of such violence in video
games. It is believed that acting out such violence as opposed to
just viewing the violence causes the children to become more
familiar with how to act out violence without consequences.
the other hand the makers of these violent types of media such
as movies, video games and television argue that violent
children are drawn towards these types of violent
people believe that the child must have been exposed to more
than just programming in order to exhibit behaviors that they
may have seen on television or in the media. Some will argue
though that the real effect is so small that in fact one
hypothesis suggests that exposure to violent media can
actually provide a healthy release for the frightening
emotions of children and young adults.
At the age children begin to play video games they have
not quite developed the ability to distinguish between what is
reality and what its not.
This can cause young children to act upon the violence
they have viewed on television, video games and such, not
knowing that what they are doing is wrong or inappropriate.
violent situations are all too common in everyday
entertainment and there are far less programming choices that
are non-violent than there are violent.
The National Coalition on Television Violence reported
there has been a consistent increase in the number of violent
themed video games. These
games increased from fifty three percent in 1985 to eighty two
percent in1988 (Cesarone, 1994). The agreement amongst
researchers on television violence is that there is a
significant increase from 3% to 15% in individuals' aggressive
behavior after watching violent television (Cesarone, 1994). Even
if the choices did exist the research has proven parents
actually have no clue as to what their children watch on
need to be attentive to the content these games have and
question whether they are appropriate for the age of their
should also monitor the amount of time their children spend
playing video games. For
instance a co-workers eight year old child said to me “I
watched an ‘R’ rated movie one time because there were not
any parents around.” In
one multicultural study that was completed, found that in six
different nations young Americans had the least amount of work
responsibility assigned to them.
This leads to an excess number of manufactured video
games and store bought materials to entertain them.
Rather than being forced to go outside to participate
in activities they are encouraged to stay inside and watch
television or play video games alone.
Together these two factors contribute to video game
over usage. A
study conducted in 1989, on video game usage and content found
that most of the arcade games contained “antisocial values
of a violent nature” (Ivory, 2001).
only part of the issue that researchers do agree about is that
violent media types are not the only cause of children
committing violent acts. The involvement of parents in what
their children watch, how the family interacts with each
other, what the children are exposed to in their environment
are also indicators of how
they will behave and what value system they will follow.
In 1995 one research revealed that both impulsive and
reflective young adults showed increased amounts of violent
aggression towards play objects after playing violent and
non-violent video games.
However, in a contradictory study it was found that
there was not a difference between children that were exposed
to violent media and those who were exposed to non-violent
catharsis theory disputes the claim that violent video game
content encourages aggression (Ivory, 2001).
This theory suggests that the emotional drive evoked by
violent video game play reduces the chance of a child actually
exhibiting violent behavior; the child’s fantasy play and
imagined actions causes the child to have reduced urges to act
out aggression in actual behavior (Ivory, 2001).
you believe, the US surgeon generals report only suggests
possible short term effects.
There is no strong evidence on the long term effects of
media violence. The
fact is that research is stronger towards media violence being
a precursor to increased aggression in children and young
adults. This fact
alone should be enough for parents to become more involved in
what their children are exposed to. According
to Wartella and Reeves, “Our review found a progression from
early attention to studies of media use to increasing emphasis
on issues of physical and emotional harm, and changes in
children’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors” (Ivory,
some responsible companies who are taking steps to
inform parents about the content of the entertainment.
locks were developed by one company in 1990 to prevent
unsupervised access to video games.
Several companies have developed their own
rating system for violence to help parents monitor
their child’s free time.
X-Unfit and XV (highly violent), PG and G ratings
are the ratings from The National Coalition on Television
Violence to rate video game violence. With hopes that
other video game makers will follow Sega has developed
their own rating system which include general, mature,
and adult audience. As
for Nintendo they use the general rating that is used
for movies; G, PG, PG-13 and R rated.
The only problem with these ratings are that
some parents are not aware of them and stores still
sell these games to children that are not old enough
to be purchasing them.
However, this is a helpful guide for parents
that do monitor there child’s form of entertainment.
conclusion, not one research conducted could prove either
positive or negative long term outcomes of violent media.
The fact of the matter is that parents should monitor
and be more attentive to their children.
In the act of a busy life we all tend to forget the
real life issues. Parents need to pay more attention to their children’s
lives and not sit them in front of the television, weather it
is for movies, video games, or general television shows.
In my opinion in this day and age most parents get too
wrapped up in their own lives to be overly concerned about
what their children are doing.
Raising a child is hard enough in this day and age but
you add all the outside media violence and it makes it ten
times harder to steer your child in the right direction. Does that really mean violent media causes children to be
don’t believe so these children get bored and should be
limited to the types of media entertainment they are exposed
to. All we can do
as parents is pay attention to our children and stay involved
in their lives before it is too late.
Bernard, 1994, Video Games and
Children ERIC Digest. http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content2/video.games.html. Accessed October 26, 2003
Development Institute, 2003, Video Games and Children,
October 26, 2003
D., 2001, Video Games and the Elusive Search for their Effects
An assessment of Twenty Years of Research,
Accessed November 16, 2003
Susan, 2003, Media Violence: More than Just Child’s Play?
Facts of Life:
Issue Briefings for Health Reporters vol. 8, no. 10. http://www.cfah.org/factsoflife/vol8no10.cfm.
Accessed Oct 26, 2003