Childhood is a unique time in a person’s life because it is associated with the phase where most growth happens. It is during this stage when cognition develops in children and that is done through experience. The things that happen around a child and their life during his stage leave a lasting impression on them and their behavior. Playing video games leaves some form of effects on the brain of a player when they play games extensively for extended periods. Effects can be positive or negative depending on the kind of exposure and content of the games. There are different opinions on whether or not the games that are violent impact children. Research shows that effects vary in children because of other underlying issues t. A review of the impacts of violent video games on children is provided in this essay.
In the nature vs nurture debate, video games are in the environment of a child. Regulators play an integral role in the development of a child, especially those that come from within and a child has limited self-control (Biemiller and Meichenbaum). Some traits of a child are inherited genetically if either of the parents is predisposed to aggression. Others are learned through the experiences and observations of a child. This means that it will have a direct impact on behavior and the cognition of what is around them. During childhood, one gets to train their brain on a variety of things and one of them is processing the attributes of their immediate environment. While video games can be good for improving vision and other traits, they are also agents of aggression and violence.
The human brain perceives and uniquely processes information and it is special how experience influences that. The amount of violence depicted in some modern games is astonishing. Exposure to some of these levels of violence and aggression trains how the minds of children perceive their surroundings. Childhood is also a time where the brain grows and thus the necessity to always keep it in a learning environment. The parts of the brain that are less used in this stage can become inactive over time (Zhao and Zeng). Violent games have depictions that cause the brains of children to normalize aggression. The brain goes through experiences of the virtual game world and translates reality based on cognition of the virtual world.
One of the biggest effects of violent video games on children is addiction. The games take up valuable time that should be used for other activities like socializing. Children eventually end up creating a virtual world for themselves and make virtual friends with the people they play with. Even adults are gamers in some of the most common games and have more time for playing. It affects children because they are made to have a mentality that processes their surroundings as adults and not at their age. Many things can be blamed for the extended time that children spent behind screens. The most common and logical one is flawed parenting because a child must protect their children from the mess in the first place.
In some cases, they become disconnected from reality which makes them behave oddly at their age due to long exposure to video games. Some violent games have a reward structure that makes the adventure and gameplay worthwhile for the human brain, at least virtually. The reward structure, adventure, and adrenaline in the games create the urge for players. Players seeking to win big eventually become hooked to the game. At that point, quitting will require intervention in normal adults. It translates to it being even worse for children because interventions that work for adults do not necessarily work for children.
Gun control in the United States is one of the biggest challenges that the country faces. It has been attributed to the exposure to violence and aggression in video games by the perpetrators of the heinous crimes. In El Paso, Texas, a gunman on a shooting spree killed 23 people while injuring 23 others in 2019. Discussions and opinions on whether violence in video games was to blame for the actions of the gunman and other similar incidents. It would have been interesting to know exactly how violent video games contribute to that. However, it was later established that the shooting was entirely an outcome of hatred.
There can be connections between violent video games and such incidents. The incident in El Paso confirmed that other underlying factors also affect people, children, and adults alike. It is not explicitly clear whether or not aggression and violence amongst people are attributed to violent video games that perpetrators are exposed to in childhood. The contexts of the research that has been done before may have been the same but the setting is different from reality. Findings have largely been region-specific because regulations on gun control and violence vary around the world. Most of the proponents of a relationship between the two had research set in regions in developed countries.
The minds of children work differently from that of adults. Children process information differently too because their brains are also growing (Heiphetz et al.). There is likely to be a huge gap in how adults are impacted by the games compared to children. The motivation for playing games that are violent and with a high aggression level is also different for both. Even amid these differences, there is a common factor in both groups. The degree of exposure to violent video games is directly associated with an increase in adolescent aggression (Shao and Wang). Shao and Wang also established that the impacts of playing violent video games differed in poor and good family environments.
Good family environments are described as those with a sustainable income and a good living standard. In this setting, children and adolescents playing violent video games only have their aggression affected. A poor family environment is one whose living standards are below what is considered average. More impacts, both direct and indirect, manifest when children from these families play violent video games (Shao and Wang). These effects can be grouped into two main classes of normative beliefs; retaliatory beliefs and general beliefs. General beliefs are the ones that directly affect individuals and retaliatory beliefs are the ones associated with reactions to situations.
The impacts on children can be either but societal beliefs are commonly aligned with associating the impacts of video games via a general belief. Some of the issues pointed out in general beliefs are that some are outliers that happen once in a long time and patterns cannot be established with them. The link in some of the cases is just via association and similarities of the incidents to the violence levels only found in violent video games. The relationship between the two can be perceptive and just in the minds of those who believe in some cases. It does not explicitly negate the influence of video games in some situations which may be reactionary and thus a retaliatory belief.
Childhood and adolescence are times when the brain sections are responsible for judgment, impulse control, and decision-making. Major reorganizations happen during this period and they are responsible for the kind of a person the child grows to become. Exposure of the prefrontal cortex to aggression and violence in video games predisposes the mind to aggression. Whether it later becomes part of their normal behavior or not, there is no doubt that violence in video games will impact a child. Some of the violent images and scenes in video games are not even meant for the mind of a child. Some are rated for certain ages but failure in parenting has led to a child being exposed to violence and perceiving it as a normal thing.
In conclusion, the topic of the effects of violence and aggression in video games on children is an interesting one; one that quickly gained traction in the developmental psychology domain. The level of aggression and violence are critical elements in dictating the impacts of violent video games on children. Research has shown contradicting outcomes and that is due to differences in the setting and research methods. However, it is clear that other variables also contribute to aggression and violence in people regardless of whether they are exposed to video games or not. The shooting incident in El Paso confirms this but does not mean that violence and aggression in video games are a good thing for the developmental psychology of children.
Biemiller, Andrew, and Donald Meichenbaum. The Evolution Of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. 1st ed., 2017, p. 10.
Heiphetz, Larisa et al. “My Mind, Your Mind, And God’s Mind: How Children And Adults Conceive Of Different Agents’ Moral Beliefs”. British Journal Of Developmental Psychology, vol 36, no. 3, 2018, pp. 467-481. Wiley. Web.
Shao, Rong, and Yunqiang Wang. “The Relation Of Violent Video Games To Adolescent Aggression: An Examination Of Moderated Mediation Effect“. Frontiers In Psychology, vol 10, 2019. Frontiers Media SA. Web.
Zhao, Feifei, and Yi Zeng. “Dynamically Optimizing Network Structure Based On Synaptic Pruning In The Brain“. Frontiers In Systems Neuroscience, vol 15, 2021. Frontiers Media SA. Web.