Making Bullies Better or Making Bigger Bullies?
Parents have been told for years that violent video games were turning our kids into bullies. The first outcry of violence in video games was heard in 1976 following the release of a game called Death Race, according to MotherJones.com. The object of the game was to run over screaming “gremlins” that turned into gravestones. But scientists can’t determine whether it creates bullies – or actually helps them.
With the release of such games as Grand Theft Auto V, Battlefield 4, and Halo, scientists are still trying to discover what effect these games are having on the kids who play them. While some scientists still stand by the belief that these video games are turning our kids into bullies, further research has found the opposite may be true.
Studies done by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry warns that children who play violent video games can become desensitized to the violence, imitate the behavior and become more aggressive. Other results say it leads to poor social skills, lower grades and reading levels, less exercise and weight problems. A 2008 study called Grand Theft Childhood reports that 60 percent of middle school boys that played at least one video game that’s rated mature had resorted to violent behavior, compared to only 39 percent of boys who had not.
With statistics such as these, it is no wonder parents may be worried about violent video games making their children aggressive. However, these finding may not be accurate. Other scientists, such as Dr. Christopher Ferguson and Dr. Cheryl Olson have conducted studies that show the opposite results. Dr. Ferguson states that no solid findings have been proven on either side and that the correlation between violent games and aggression in children has never been definitely linked.
Taking that research one step further, Fergus and Olsen have found the opposite to be true. In their studies, the games seemed to have a calming effect and reduced aggression and bullying. The Journal of Adolescent Research found in their study that violent video games gave bullies an outlet to release their aggression and bullying tendencies in the game, rather than act on them in real life. In 2008, a Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family statistics reported that from 1996 to 2005, while sales of violent video games increased, the number of serious violent crimes committed by youths decreased.
The emphasis put on many of the mass shootings, such as Columbine and Sandy Hook as evidence that violent video games played by children will escalate crimes such as these has little ground to stand on. A 2004 U.S. Secret Service review of school-based attacks found that only one-eighth of the attackers had any interest in violent video games.
With the scientific jury still out, one of the recommendations that many professionals agree on is the importance of monitoring your child’s video game activity. It is essential to understanding the games they are playing, and giving guidance so that they understand that video games are fun and exciting, but not real. Research the games, understand the rating system, and decide for yourself what impact the games are having on your child.