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Violent video games do not cause behavioral problems in children. The concerns that violent video games promote or cause behavioral problems in children began shortly after the inception of the commercial product availability in the 1970s.Violent video games topics center around violence, sex and sexism, graphic pictures, and violent gory scenes among others. It is also concerned with the portrayal of partial or impartial nudity as well as the patterns of animal behavior amongst other objectionable and provocative behaviors. The possible impact of different violent video games on children’s behavior is a highly contested topic. Some scholars claim that such games cause addiction and promote aggressive tendencies, thus promoting sociopathic behaviors and tendencies in children. Other scholars totally object views saying that unless a child or children are previously predisposed to violence and aggressive behaviors due to genetic and environmental factors, violent video games cannot influence them to take on to negative behaviors, which is true (Anderson & Bushman 2001).
According to Craig (2006), the concept of effects of using violent video games is explained by two theories, which are the catalyst model theory and the general aggression model. These theories both seek to explain how violent video games may or may not affect players. The catalyst model is advanced by the diathesis stress perspective, which claims that aggression is the result of a number of genetic and environmental factors combined (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). It further advances that antisocial personalities and stress are the most salient factors in creating aggression. The theory also advances that proximal influences, such as family and peers, may cause aggression. This theory concludes that violent video games are too weak to have much influence on an individual’s behavior.
The general aggression model portrays video games as having an influence on many people and hence children. It proposes that participant’s feelings, thoughts, and physical arousal can be evoked by stimulated violence. The theory asserts that this creates an effect on how individuals interpret aggressive or violent acts. It advances that violent video games have both long-term effects and short-term effects. Although the long-term effects are not yet accurately determined, the short-term ones are associated with aggression since violent video games affect cognition and are posited to increase arousal, thereby believed to promote violent behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes, evoking aggression in a certain individual (Anderson & Bushman, 2001).
Despite the criticism leveled against the behavioral effect of violent video games, they are an important invention as they have provided immense benefits ranging from providing entertainment as well as stimulating brain development abilities by sharpening children’s logic and, also, providing an emotional outlet amongst other importances that influence positive behavioral changes.
Various types of video games are believed to advance social and cognitive development and ensure greater physiological well-being of a child. Video game players have been observed to have better hand-eye coordination and they portray improved visuo-motor skills in that can resist distraction. It increases their ability to sense information in the peripheral vision; besides, their ability to count briefly presented objects is greater than that of the non-players. These games improve individuals’ intelligence while promoting the development of cognitive and social skills thus are an important exposure to children. They are also seen as important tools in physical rehabilitation (Gentile, 2009).
Violent video games are excellent stress relievers. Statistics show that among students, video games provide an important emotional outlet whereby they can vent out their anger. Research further stipulates that 49 percent of boys and 25 percent of girls use violent video games, for example, the Grand Theft Auto (GTA), as an outlet for their anger. Violent video games are thought to affect young people positively but not negatively in that, as it has been observed, despite the increase in demand for the m-rated video games, violent crimes have gone down among young people and children. Therefore, parents are encouraged to take responsibility by monitoring the amount of time that is being spent by their children on these games rather than restricting them. These violent video games can prevent children from being stressed due to everyday life pressures that could cause stress or depression (Anderson & Dill, 2000).
Violent video games assist children in improving their cognitional and perceptual attention and a number of different abilities. Violent video games provide an interesting and promising means to improve the children’s ability to perceive and interpret things and devise solutions, which increases on their wisdom. The multiplier video game settings study shows that 11 out of 16 girls who played violent computer games with their parents showed better mental health condition and were less aggressive, thereby imparting positive behaviors. This was particularly possible when games with appropriate age limit were played.
According to Anderson and Dill (2000), despite the criticism raised against the use of violent video games as them being a negative influence on children’s behavior, current study shows that a substantial majority of children who play violent video games do not commit any antisocial acts. The highest risk factors for school shootings among other antisocial behaviors are dependent on the quality of life at home and on the child’s mental stability but not on the exposure to media violence and hence violent video games. People and hence children who are predisposed to aggression do not need violent video games or other violent media exposure to carry out aggressive acts and thus not to be blamed for such occurrences. Bad behaviors depend on one’s personality traits and these, among children, can be modified by imparting positive values by the parents.
The moral concerns over violent video games are, in fact, harmful and derailing from the reality. It only misdirects energy from the core issues of concern, which are the actual causes of violence among youth and children, and only allows these problems to continue to fester while still using exposure to violent media, i.e., violent video games, as a scapegoat. However, despite these tremendous benefits of violent video games, they have several negative impacts on behavioral change leveled against them, some even leading to court cases in complaint of their adverse effects on the behavior of children (Anderson & Bushman, 2001).
Violent computer games are believed to decrease activities in the parts of the brain that regulate attention and concentration. Although these brain changes are perceived as not permanent, the exposure to these violent video games is blamed for creating sociopathic disorders. For example, according to the study carried out in 2001, the exposure to violent video games causes a temporary increase of aggression among children and young adults. This study concluded that the exposure to violent video games correlates with aggression in the real world as well as with the decrease in prosocial behavior. Violent video games are also deemed to affect the physiological welfare of children as they are seen to affect physical functioning of a child. For instance, they are believed to trigger epileptic seizures because of the increased heart rate and blood pressure changes which adversely affect children’s health. However, these adverse physical effects are transient and limited to a small number of players’ negative behavioral changes (Gentile, 2009).
According to Gentile (2009), violent video games increase several forms of aggression in children and young adults and are claimed to be addictive. They are believed to be able to increase aggression, physiological arousal, and other related antisocial reactions, thoughts, and feelings. They also lead to decreased prosocial behaviors as well as to the reduction of educational keenness. These violent video games create an unrealistic illusion of life, leading to creation of weird fantasies among children; they increase social isolation, teach wrong values, and generally cause decreased academic performance among children. Besides, they exhibit addictive abilities that decrease children’s interest and devotion to education, as these games are deemed more enjoyable and fun compared to books. Research findings show that children who play violent video games, coupled with watching violent TV, can become violent themselves. An example is that after researchers were exposing randomly picked children who had no much experience in violent computer games to the first shooter game and repeatedly scanned them after several exposures, the children exhibited less attention in areas that involve emotions and inhibited impulses (Anderson & Bushman, 2001).
Behavioral studies have shown an increase in aggressive behavior among children after their exposure to violent video games. Scientists propose that there are changes in the brain functions that can be associated with this behavior. However, although such brain damages are deemed reversible, brain functions of children are not quite the same as they were before the exposure to violent games. The stoop test, which is a physiological test, shows that there is a difference between children who are exposed to violent video games and those who are not, whereby they portray a difference in the way they matched words to colors. Although both show the same brain activity in the baseline tests, after a week of exposure to violent video games, the results were rather different: the study revealed less activation of the emotional brain centers of the children who were exposed to violent video games. Thus, the study concluded that violent video games adversely affect children’s behavior, making them temporarily adopt sociopathic tendencies (Greenemeier, 2011).
In conclusion, most of the claims that violent video games negatively affect children’s behavior are merely based on various hypotheses and thus can be contested. Unless children are previously predisposed to aggression, they cannot make them aggressive. Numerous claims that video games tend to increase one’s levels of aggression, teach wrong values, give a confused illusion of life, or cause low academic performance among other complaints are means of evading the realities of the factors that cause aggression and thus negative behaviors in children. These violent video games have brought a tremendous improvement in children’s behavior, which can be evidenced by a significant decrease in juvenile cases in the recent past (Craig, et al., 2006). These movies have a wide range of physiological benefits and, therefore, are an important aspect of children’s leisure activities as they stimulate their development. The best option here is for parents to monitor the kind of video games played by their children and the amount of time that is spent on them.