PHOTO: Jerry Wong
PHOTO: Jerry Wong

Have you ever wondered about the impact of violent video games on children? With video games becoming more realistic, the influence they have on kids is growing. Researchers have long debated the effect video games, mainly violent ones, have on kids. Social scientists studying videos games have stated that playing violent games can and do lead to hostile and aggressive short term behavior. How violent games affect long term behavior can not be determined.

Critics are quick to put the blame on the violent content in the games, when a crime or an act of violence is committed by an adolescent or teenager who is reported to have spent hours playing video games. For example, there was discussion around the connection between these types of games and Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Newtown massacre. In some ways, the argument that playing violent video games causes an increase in violence in kids makes sense. According to an article in The Telegraph by Barney Henderson, Adam Lanza spent hours playing Call of Duty. Although widely believed otherwise, Adam Lanza’s interest in Call of Duty has no confirmed connection between the violence in the game and the his attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School. People argue that there were stronger factors that lead to Lanza’s shooting, like his fascination with guns.

Supporting the opinion that playing violent video games can lead to violent crimes, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey stated on MSNBC, “I don’t let games like Call of Duty in my house. You cannot tell me that a kid sitting in a basement for hours playing Call of Duty and killing people over and over and over again does not desensitize that child to the real-life effects of violence.”

Although people are quick to blame violence in video games when a violent crime is committed by a young gamer, video games have be known to promote a child’s creativity, relieve stress and improve decision making skills. Experimental studies performed in the United States, Japan and Singapore, by Douglas Gentile and other researchers found that playing pro-social games, in which gamers form teams to complete a task or mission, increases a child’s helping behavior.

“If content is chosen wisely, video games can actually enhance some skills,” Gentile said. “But overall, the research has demonstrated that they’re far more powerful teaching tools than we imagined. But the power can be both good and bad.”