Whether or not video games have an effect on violence has been a topic of much debate. Recent events have spurred many into simply blaming video games for starting dangerous and anti-social behaviors, but such accusations tend to be unfounded. The actual affect of video games is subjective to the child’s experience with the game.
One of the biggest topics of debate is the large amount of gun violence present in video games. Parents and concerned citizens alike fear that exposure to such graphic violence has a negative effect on children. Whether or not this is true depends on observational learning. Observational learning is a theory put forth by psychologist Albert Bandura that states that children will learn certain behaviors by watching the examples of role models. However, watching is simply not enough to cause children to imitate behavior. In order for this to happen, a child would have to have access to the required tools to be able to regularly imitate what is seen. In the case of gun violence, the child would need frequent contact with ludicrous amounts of guns and ample supplies of ammunition. So, in most cases, guns in video games would not lead to children wanting to commit tragedies. However, in cases of easy to replicate tasks, video games could cause violence in an impressionable child. For instance, there aren’t very many requirements to perform wrestling or fighting moves. This could lead to a child imitating the characters on screen and injuring themselves or others. The most basic solution is to monitor a child and explain to him or her that they should not attempt what is seen, and punish the child for imitating what is seen in video games.
An important, yet seldom referenced fact is that video games follow the ranking of the ESRB. This is a ranking system that informs parents of the recommended age level for each game and also the type of content in said game. This gives a fairly accurate description of the type of violence, and the amount of violence the game contains. Any concerned parent should pay close attention to the rating given by the ESRB, as it will allow them to filter video games based on content. However, the system is not perfect. Different types of violence account for different age ratings. Say, a video game could be incredibly violent, yet get a rating geared towards younger audiences because the violence is classified as “cartoon violence.” The simplest way to counter-act this is to research any game you are considering buying.
The simplest answer to whether or not a game causes violence is a blunt “maybe.” There is no perfect way to determine what will and will not affect children, however, monitoring your children and simple research are great ways of minimizing any negative effects on a child.