Does Watching Violent Television And Playing Violent Games Lead To Violent Behavior?

There has been talk and debate since television was invented about whether watching violence or playing violent games leads to violent behavior in the people who watch them, especially children.  In the 70s, Albert Bandura a psychologist specializing in social learning conducted research studying violence and the tendency of children to imitate what they see.

“Consistently disturbing” findings about the violent content of children’s programs has been debated for some time now so the Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior was formed in 1969 to find out what emotional and behavioral impact it has on its viewers.

This is what was found when studying behavior after watching violent shows.  In a report in 1982 by the National Institute of Mental Health, watching these shows led to the following conclusions:

A. Kids less sensitive to others with pain and suffering.

B. More fearful of their surroundings.

C. More Aggressive behavior toward others.

Research performed by L. Rowell Huesmann, Leonard Eron and others in the psychological sciences in the 80s found that kids aged 4-11 who watched many hours of violence on television showed increased aggressive behavior during their teenage years.

Huesmann and Eron also studied 8 year olds who watched increased amounts of television violence had a higher chance of being arrested for criminal acts upon becoming an adult.

This is not the only factor for increased aggression and its correlation with television. After Huesmann and Eron’s research, psychologists Douglas Gentile and Brad Bushman and other psychologists suggested that watching violence in the media also contributes to more aggression and can lead to desensitizing the watcher.

Video games can also increase violent behavior.  Did you know that 97% of kids ages 12-17 play video games.   Research in 2008 found that 50% of all teens reported playing video games did so for an hour or more each day.

One popular game is called Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.  These are violent games and though there are fewer studies of video game violence than there are for television and media the results did show negative effects regarding exposure to violence in video games.

A 2010 review by psychologist Craig A. Anderson and others concluded that “the evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.”

Anderson’s research revealed that engaging in violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior but there have been others that have stated that children that are show violent tendencies will be more apt to choose more violent game content.  With this being a controversial subject,  the American Psychological Association launched an analysis in 2013 of peer-reviewed research on the impact of media violence and is reviewing its policy statements in the area.

In my personal opinion, it seems like when exposing people to violence on a daily basis, it becomes more “normal” and will desensitize people into thinking the behavior is normal.  Just my opinion, but it would be nice if the gaming community would focus more on fun, interactive games that bring people together, not drag people apart.