Video Games & Violence: Is There a Correlation?

Video Games & Violence: Is There a Correlation?

Whether violent video games contribute to youth violence is a hot topic for studies and discussions all over the world. Video games have become such a big part of human culture – it’s a form of entertainment that you can acquire at big box stores, through online video game rental services, and at bars and restaurants almost anywhere. Many people claim violence in video games does indeed contribute to violence in the real world, whereas others argue that violent video games have no correlation to juvenile violence at all.

In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 3,000 children and teens in Singapore were tracked over three years to determine whether violent video games contributed to real-life violence. The result of this study proved that playing violent video games habitually contributed to increased aggression in children.

However, those who say violence in video games has nothing to do with violence in children and teens cite stats that show an increase in violent video game consumption but a decrease in juvenile crime rates. The juvenile Violent Crime Index arrest rate has been on a steady decline since 2006, while video game sales have increased more than 200 percent.

An argument that claims violence in video games can lead to real-life violence makes the point that there are no negative consequences for enacting violence within a video game world. This theory follows that children and teens could reenact that violence on others in the real world because they don’t see what the consequences would be. There is no evidence that this is the case; in fact, studies show the opposite. For example, a report by the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education looked at 37 cases of targeted school violence between 1974 and 2000. About 27 percent of the attackers showed interest in violent movies, less than 25 percent in violent books, and only 12 percent had interest in violent video games.

Trying to determine whether video game violence leads to real violence is difficult to prove or disprove, and no study is able to pinpoint a satisfactory answer. A study that only lasts a few years, or doesn’t take into account environment or predispositions, or that only requires 10 minutes of gameplay a day, can skew results one way or the other. Another example is a study published in PLOS One that set out to determine whether violent video games affect a person’s willingness to help others. Sixty-four college students were tasked with playing one of four different games, two of which are notably violent, while two others were not. When researchers dropped their pens as part of the experiment, both of the gaming groups were equally willing to help retrieve the pens.

One of the biggest questions about video games and violence remains unanswered: Do video games cause violence? The jury is still out and deliberating about what pixelated violence does to the psyches of adults and children alike.

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