Regulate violent video gameplay for minors
Published: Sunday, July 24, 2011
Updated: Sunday, July 24, 2011 15:07
The age-old question, or rather the question for parents of young children brought up in the virtual age of the 21st century, is whether violence in video games truly affects their social behaviors, and leads to aggression.
Recently, an article in the Association for Psychological Science stated that the Supreme Court in California overruled banning the sale of violent video games to minors.
This decision has been supported by video game developers and gamers alike. Even Texas A&M psychologist Christopher Ferguson, who is under the impression that aggression and violent media are not correlated in any way, feels "playing violent video games may have some positive effects for young adults, such as better stress management."
However, Brad Bushman, a psychology and communications professor at Ohio State University, believes that there is a link between video games and aggressive behavior.
So, what are the psychological effects of violent video games? Are the effects positive, or a clear correlation leading to an inevitable negative outcome? This poses the question of whether minors have the ability to separate the violence in a virtual setting. Can we go so far as to say that it is within their control to consciously decide whether they adopt these behaviors?
As humans, we model behaviors; the younger we are, the more susceptible we are to outside stimuli. Our brain computes billions of bits of information, consciously and unconsciously; and whether we like to admit it, it controls most of the reasoning behind our actions. Constantly being exposed to violence desensitizes our emotional responses, giving the impression that these acts are commonplace. Having habitual and regular violent stimuli as a minor conditions an individual to express aggression and will most likely resurface in social settings.
These learned behaviors remind me of the idea that our environment, or nurture, determines a percentage of who we are. I would not say that teenagers are innately violent individuals seeking some sort of aggressive outlet, but rather these learned behaviors are exactly what they are: learned. Persistent violence accompanied with feelings of self-satisfaction, like winning a video game, may be associated with aggressive behavior.
According to Bushman, in more than 130 studies on 130,000-plus participants, it was proven that violent video games can "lead to an increase in aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal, including increased heart rate, and aggressive behavior. They also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others."
Having played a few video games, I would not say that they are entirely ineffective. In a way, they do stimulate the senses, calling for an increase in perceptual responses. However, I would not agree with Ferguson's opinion that it provides a cathartic experience for minors. This claim suggests that young adults are experiencing some serious stress and need to let off steam. If children need a release from all this "stress," then the solution would not be to channel the anger through violence, even if it is virtual. I would instead suggest sublimation to redirect the anger into something productive and positive.
So is banning violent video games the answer to teenage angst? Maybe not entirely, but regulating how often they are played may help them differentiate between reality and the virtual world. While we can take into account the good-versus-evil theme throughout violent video games, I would not propose that approach to conflict resolution in the real world. Children and young adults are still impressionable, and violent video games contribute to their understanding of how to deal with conflict.