Yet Another Academic Essay on Violence and Video Games

It’s time to get a little academic on you.

(Image via Complex)

This week the writing assignment in my Treatment of Children and Adolescents class was a paper on violent video games. We were given 3 academic articles and had to make an argument, either way, about youth and violent video games.

Originally I was worried about the assignment. There is a lot of research out there with a lot of different results, many times opposing. I expected 3 articles that focused on the negative impact video games have on kids. To my surprise, the views expressed in the articles were balanced, and I was able to make a solid argument that I was happy with.

For your reading pleasure, here’s what I ended up with (with added pictures!):

      Many parents today are concerned with how much time their children spend playing video games.  The main concern seems to be around violent video games and the possible harm it could be causing youth today.  It is understandable why parents are so concerned when we are increasingly surrounded by headlines that seem to be centered around youth and violence.  Many members of the media, government, and society in general have placed the blame for these violent incidents on video games.  These games are named the cause of increased aggression in children, while that may not necessarily be the case.  Careful monitoring and limit setting surrounding video game play may help protect youth from potential harm.

      There is a lot of research on violence, video games, and youth.  Much of the research agrees that there is some kind of link between violent video games and aggression (Hasan and Bushman, 2013 & Kronenberger, et al., 2005).  Some researchers even agree that there is a link but that we cannot be exactly sure that video games cause aggression.  Some even go as far to say that violence in video games may be part of normal development for children (Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2010).  The reality is that we cannot be sure, but we can look at some of the evidence and draw conclusions based on what we see.

      Research has shown us over and over again that there is some kind of link between increased aggression and violent video games.  Hasan and Bushman (2013) found that individuals who played violent video games had a measurable stress reaction during video game play.  They also found that those same individuals were more likely to show aggressive behavior after the violent video game play.  The stress reaction makes perfect sense when you think about the fact that violent video games are meant to simulate stressful life or death situations.  When we have turned off the game, the stress reaction may linger for a while later and cause us to be more aggressive.

      Video games are not the only media linked to aggressive behavior.  Kronenberger, et al. (2005) conducted a study which showed that youth who were more aggressive were more likely to watch violent media on television or in the movies.  Those that engaged with this violent media were also more likely to play violent video games, regardless of how much time total they spent playing games.  From this we can draw the conclusion that aggressive individuals who engage in violent video game play also engage in other activities that may have an impact on their aggressiveness.

      None of the research done has been able to show a cause and effect relationship.  The studies done by Hasan and Bushman (2013) and Kronenberger, et al. (2005) are both correlational, like most other studies done in the field of psychology.  The researchers in these studies all noted that a limitation of the study is that they cannot prove causality.  This means that we can show that there is a relationship between aggressive behavior and violent video game play, but that we do not know which way the relationship goes.  Violent video games could cause aggressive behavior.  Individuals who are naturally aggressive may be drawn to violent media as a way to have fun.  Or a third factor that we do not know about could be the cause for both. 

(Image via NY Times)

      Another way to look at violent video game play is that it may just be a new form of expressing normal human development.  The Harvard Mental Health Letter (2010) argues that children, especially boys, naturally play aggressively through horseplay.  Today they can do so through video games rather than wrestling, but the impulse to express your dominance and skill through play is still the same.  Another point that the Harvard Mental Health Letter makes is that although violent video game play has increased over the years, violent crimes involving youth have decreased since 1996.  Perhaps video games have given youth an appropriate outlet to express their aggressiveness without physically harming anyone.

      We may not know what exactly it is, but the link between violent video games and aggression in youth is there.  The way our children are playing is changing and increasingly becoming more digital and less visibly obvious to parents.  One of the biggest ways to help prevent aggression issues related to video games is for parents to check the ESRB ratings and make sure their children are not playing games too mature for their age.  Other ways to help prevent aggression problems are to play games with children to understand the content, place game consoles in common areas so that game content is visible, set clear limits on the amount of time allowed for video game play, and to encourage youth to spend time playing with others in the real world (Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2010).  If these steps are taken it is more likely that youth will be able to play in a healthy way and still enjoy an activity that they find engaging.

(Image via BET)


Harvard Mental Health Letter (2010). Violent video games and young people. Harvard Mental Health Letter, 27(4).

Hasan, Y., Begue, L., Bushman, B. (2013). Violent video games stress people out and make them more aggressive. Aggressive Behavior, 39, 64–70.

Kronenberger, W. G., Mathews, V. P., Dunn, D. W., Wang, Y., Wood, E. A., Larsen, J. J. Lurito, J. T. (2005). Media violence exposure in aggressive and control adolescents: differences in self- and parent-reported exposure to violence on television and in video games. Aggressive Behavior, 31, 201-216.

I wish I could provide the actual links to the articles referenced, but I don’t have digital access to them. Otherwise, that’s what I’ve got.

The point of the assignment was to have us write a concise, understandable, academic (that may be an oxymoron there…) paper that we might provide to parents of our future clients. I think I was successful.

Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear what you have to say, whether you agree with me or think I’m full of crap.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top