There have been several claims that link violent behavior in children and video games, but very few studies show any direct correlation. In fact, recently released FBI reports reveal that blaming the Columbine incident on a video game was nothing more than a publicity stunt.
There are, however, studies that show a correlation between usage of violent video games and desensitization to real-life images of violence. And although this doesn’t show a link between exposure to violent video games and real-life violence, it does reveal that exposure to violent video games can have psychological effects.
A personal anecdote:
A couple months ago I was playing the latest version of Call of Duty-for those of you who don’t know, Call of Duty is a first person shooter game in which players are put on teams online with a sole mission: to kill everyone in the other team as many times as you can. But not only was I playing this game every day, I played from 6-12 hours each day. One of those days, while driving, someone merged into my lane cutting me off and I uttered “If only I had my sniper rifle, I could pick him off with a head-shot.” And even though I knew that I would never shoot anyone for cutting me off, at that moment I realized that there was something wrong with the way my brain was thinking.
When we are confronted with a problem, our brain follows a protocol to attempt to find a solution. It looks through all of the experiences you have had thus far and attempts to match what you have done in previous situations in order to predict the outcome of future actions. Based on your experiences, based on these patterns that have been repeated over time, you make a decision on how to attempt to solve a problem.
Games create situations in which violent solutions to problems are rewarded. After being rewarded for violent actions enough times, our brain begins to see violence as an optimal solution to problems. (This is the difference between violent movies and violent games, since in the movies we are only spectators and not confronted with any decisions.)
The effects that these pattern-reward tactics have are incredibly effective, and are often used by video game developers to make games addictive. And while a mature adult is able to discern right and wrong based on years of moral upbringing, the minds of children and teenagers are feebler.
While there is no concrete evidence of the true effects violent video exposure can have on kids, there is a strong base to parent’s concern (I know this from experience). The truth is, however, no matter what your child is bombarded with, a strong moral upbringing will help deter any violent tendencies. Lessons on respect for others and violence as an unacceptable solution to problems will be your child’s best asset.
But don’t forsake all video games just yet. There are video game sites out there that promote good habits and behavior. Take into account this site that not only provides your child with free online football games, but teachings on the importance of team work, respect and discipline.