The increase in violent behavior among youth and children under the influence of a more intensified exposure to violent video games has been a persistent concern in academic circles, educational environments, and families. Literature on the topic provides evidence for disruptive anti-social behaviors characterized by violence and aggression and negative health outcomes of playing violent video games. Indeed, Addo et al. (2021) found an increase in the aggression level of children who play violent video games.
Comparable findings have been presented by Gunter (2016), who utilized secondary data to compile a set of negative psychological issues associated with playing video games. Similar results were obtained by Greitemeyer (2018), whose research revealed the relationship between peer groups of players and their tendency to engage in anti-social behaviors. On the contrary, extensive research has been devoted to finding positive outcomes of video games, such as education, communication, psychological development, and emotion regulation (Rogers, 2016; Villani et al., 2018). Therefore, it is essential to conduct a research study to identify evidence on the impact of video games on violence in youth.
This research paper aims to answer the following general research question (RQ): Do violent video games contribute to a rise in aggression in players? To help unfold the topic on a more descriptive level, the following specific RQs will be addressed:
- Specific RQ1: What are the negative psychological, behavioral, and health-related outcomes of playing video games for children, adolescents, and young adults?
- Specific RQ2: What are the positive outcomes of playing video games for children, adolescents, and young adults?
- Specific RQ3: How can the positive effects be used to reduce negative impact and support children’s development?
The Effect of Video Games on the Psychological State of Young Individuals: Research Findings Overview
Much literature provides scientific evidence for observational implications of the negative influence of video games on youth. In particular, increased aggression in children playing video games was observed by Addo et al. (2021). Indeed, the researchers found that the exposure to violent games and the environment in which the gaming experience is obtained form aggressive tendencies in behavior.
The study found that gamers who played in overcrowded, noisy, and dark facilities with easy access to drugs and no alternatives for leisure were more prone to aggression (Addo et al., 2021). Similarly, it was suggested that “high-profile mass murders in which the perpetrators were found to have enjoyed violent video games has led to journalists identifying game playing as a potential causal factor” (Gunter, 2016, p. 8). Thus, there is a vivid and evidence-based relationship between playing video games and the ultimate engagement of players in violent behaviors.
Another significant insight into the problem of video games and their negative influence on adolescent behavior is related to peer interaction. Indeed, belonging to like-minded peer groups playing violent video games has a reinforcing relationship with performing violent behaviors (Greitemeyer, 2018). If the environment and social groups within which a player performs and interacts comprise anti-social individuals, the person is likely to develop anti-social behavioral patterns. Thus, video games containing violent visual and plot elements harm youth, which only deteriorates if the setting and social groups exhibit aggression and anti-social activities.
Controversial Arguments in Academic Literature
Although there are multiple scholarly findings on the predominantly negative impact of video games on children and youth, there is an ambiguity in the opinions of some scholars. Indeed, the academic literature on the topic is characterized by significant controversy, with multiple studies concentrating on negative influences and others investigating the positive implications of playing video games. On the one hand, a negative impact is undoubtedly validated; on the other hand, positive effects are found.
Benefits of Video Games
The overall activity of children’s engagement with virtual reality experience has been studied to retrieve some advantageous outcomes. The beneficial impact of video games on emotional tension release in children and adolescents was found by Halbrook et al. (2019). The scholars claimed that since environment regulation predetermines how a child perceives video games, it is essential to ensure a beneficial environment to improve the youth’s attention, development, and physical health (Halbrook et al., 2019). Similarly, the use of video games for boosted education and pro-social behaviors in adolescents and children was scientifically validated (Rogers, 2016).
Given the relationship between the content of games and their ultimate influence on behavioral patterns, the scholar proved that the easy engagement of children in playing games could be transformed into a powerful educational tool, through which the seeming atrocity of the digital age might be used for the benefits of learners. Moreover, if integrated with physical activity, playing video games might improve health (Halbrook et al., 2019). However, there are discrepancies in the opinions regarding the benefits of video games.
Negative Health-Related Consequences of Playing Violent Video Games
Indeed, contrary to the previously-mentioned points, scientific evidence demonstrates that excessive exposure to video games leads to such negative health outcomes as obesity, depression, insomnia, unmanaged anxiety, and substance abuse (Rogers, 2016). In his extensive study of the relationship between video games and behavioral and health outcomes, Rogers (2016) emphasized that multiple studies proved that playing video games commonly leads to dependence. It is characterized by diminished self-control and prolonged periods of diminished movement while a child sits in front of the screen.
Thus, such a child is likely to gain weight and develop associated health conditions as cardiovascular impairments, obesity, diabetes, and other problems. Moreover, the excessive amount of time exposure to video games leads to negative outcomes related to mental health. For example, alertness and stress triggered by violent and action-like games lead to insomnia, anxiety, and depression (Rogers, 2016). Similarly, since such activities are characterized by addiction, children who play video games excessively are likely to develop substance use disorders. Thus, negative outcomes are introduced to the academic literature alongside the positive ones.
Implementation of Video Game-Based Practices for Children’s Development
Since the scope of influences of video games on child development, behavior, and health is so vast, it is essential to control and regulate this activity to ensure a positive impact. Research provides prospects of using video games for improved emotional regulation and children’s development within a practice for youth psychological support (Villani et al., 2018). Firstly, it is possible to implement video game-based educational activities for self-study and educational facilities to integrate learning and playing (Halbrook et al., 2019).
Secondly, specifically designed content of video games might be used for children with attention deficit disorder to help them concentrate and complete tasks in an entertaining way (Villani et al., 2018). Finally, the whole range of benefits of video games and their omnipresence in the lives of modern-day children should be addressed by educators in the classroom to prevent negative and promote positive outcomes.
In summation, video games impact children’s, adolescents’, and young adults’ psychological development, behavior, and health. Findings suggesting the negative impact of video games on youth demonstrate that youth’s intensified violence and aggression and substance abuse, depression, obesity, anxiety, and inability to regulate emotion are disruptive for a developing individual. However, several advantages of playing video games have been identified, namely their ability to improve emotion regulation, advance education, psychological development, and pro-social behavior in youth. Therefore, since there are both an evidenced negative impact and proven positive psychological outcomes, the narrative around video games should be shifted toward using their potential in the direction of improving youth’s development.
Addo, P. C., Fang, J., Kulbo, N. B., Gumah, B., Dagadu, J. C., & Li, L. (2021). Violent video games and aggression among young adults: The moderating effects of adverse environmental factors. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 24(1), 17-23. Web.
Greitemeyer, T. (2018). The spreading impact of playing violent video games on aggression. Computers in Human Behavior, 80, 216-219. Web.
Gunter, B. (2016). Does playing video games make players more violent? Springer.
Halbrook, Y. J., O’Donnell, A. T., & Msetfi, R. M. (2019). When and how video games can be good: A review of the positive effects of video games on well-being. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(6), 1096-1104. Web.
Rogers, R. (2016). How video games impact players: The pitfalls and benefits of a gaming society. Lexington Books.
Villani, D., Carissoli, C., Triberti, S., Marchetti, A., Gilli, G., & Riva, G. (2018). Videogames for emotion regulation: A systematic review. Games for Health Journal, 7(2), 85-99. Web.