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Do violent video games contribute to youth violence?

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alyssa labelle

on 22 January 2014

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Transcript of Do violent video games contribute to youth violence?

HSP3U Summative Project
By: Alyssa Labelle

The influence of violent video games on youth
Video gaming has become a popular activity for people of all ages. Many children and adolescents spend large amounts of time playing them. Video gaming is a multibillion-dollar industry bringing in more money than movies and DVDs. Violent video games have been blamed for school shootings, increases in bullying, and violence towards women. According to the American Psychological Association, violent video games can increase children's aggression and cause them to inappropriately resolve anxiety by externalizing it violently.

While some games have educational content, many of the most popular games emphasize negative themes and promote:
• the killing of people or animals
• the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol
• criminal behavior, disrespect for authority and the law
• sexual exploitation and violence toward women
• racial, sexual, and gender stereotypes
• foul language, obscenities, and obscene gestures

The influence of violent video games on youth
Although there’s many evidence towards the fact violent video games do indeed have a great influence on children some contend that a majority of the research on the topic is deeply flawed and that no causal relationship has been found between video games and social violence. They argue that violent video games may reduce violence by serving as a substitute for rough and tumble play and by providing a safe outlet for aggressive and angry feelings which is called the Catharsis effect. The debate over violent video games can be tracked back all the way to 1976 to the release of the game Death Race, a very controversial violent video game and resurfaced many other times throughout history. By using the subsections: psychology and sociology, I will be going on the other side of the argument and explaining how and why violent video games do indeed effect children negatively.
Psychological view of the issue
A psychological view on the effects of violent video games to children can offer insight and answers to the situation by applying experiments and statistical analysis, which is defined as social psychology. By the examination of the workings of the human mind and why people behave the way they do we can try to explain the situation. Albert Bandura, a famous psychologist who believes most human behavior is learned through modeling, and Robert Zajonic another psychologist who believes the greater your number of exposures to something, the more affection you will feel toward it, to put it simply "the more you see it, the more you like it" , can help us understand the scenario.

Albert Bandura
Robert Zajonc
Robert Zajonc
Robert Zajonc’s main interests was in the relationship between feeling and thought -the intersections between emotion and cognition.

He performed a seminal experiment in 1968 that led to his discovery of the "mere exposure effect". He performed a series of experiments in which he showed participants a sequence of random images –geometric shapes, Chinese symbols, paintings, and pictures of faces – that were flashed in front of them so rapidly that they were unable to know which images were shown several times. When the subjects were later asked which images they preferred they consistently choose the ones they had been most frequently exposed to, although they were not consciously aware of this fact.

Albert Bamdura- Social cognitive
Sigmund Freud's operant conditioning theory - which was that learning was wholly determined by rewards and punishments dominated the behavior field of psychology. Next came Albet Bandura who thought childhood aggression was to complex to explain in terms of operant conditioning and instead looked at it as a learned behavior. Bandura's hypothesis was that children learn aggression through observing and imitating the violent acts of adults.
Bobo doll experiment
This was an experiment on childhood aggression by Albert Bandura in 1961. It sought to explain how aggressive behavior develops and what provokes people to carry out aggressive acts. By proving that a child will imitate an adult role model, the experiment showed the power of examples of aggression in society. For the experiment, they gathered 36 boys and 36 girls all between the ages of 3 to 6 years old. They were divided up into 3 groups of 24, 12 girls and 12 boys. The first group was the 'control group', meaning they didn't see any adult role model. The second group was exposed to an adult modeling aggressive behavior toward an inflatable Bobo doll. The third group was exposed to a passive adult model. Each child was tested individually so that they wouldn't be influenced by their peers. In the second group, each child saw the adult pummel the large Bobo toy will a mallet, fling it in the air, kick it, throw it down on the floor, beat it etc. Each child in that group imitated a great deal of the aggressive acts the adult performed when left alone and even created novel acts of violence toward the doll. The children in the other groups rarely demonstrated any kind of physical or verbal aggression.
Mere exposure effect experiment
Connection to violent video games and the effect on youth
From this experiment it was discovered that familiarity brings about an attitude change, breeding affection or some form of preference for the familiar stimulus. This theory can also connect to video game violence, or violence in the media in general. The whole idea that the more you see it, the more you like it contributes to the fact that if you are constantly watching and acting out violence in video games you will eventually find yourself having a preference to these kind of actions but you may not even be aware of it. Robert Zajonc argued that repeated exposures to a stimulus breeds familiarity with it and familiarity brings about an attitude change towards the stimulus taking the form of preference or affection. When children repeatedly play violent video games they may indeed find themselves liking the actions portrayed in the game not even knowing it themselves and can easily repeat these actions to others.
Connection to violent video games and the effect on youth
From this experiment it was discovered that a stranger performing aggressive acts can be a model of aggression for children. This allows for psychologists to argue that violent video games could also be considered a source of behavior modeling. Some psychologists regard television as a form of education, and believe that, as characters often serve as role models for children, they should be positive models in order to help decrease the general level of violence rather than negative models. From the work of Bandura we can infer that children could certainly learn aggressive behaviors from viewing it so by children playing violent video games, they can learn the aggressive behaviors from them and essentially make them violent.
Sociological view of the issue
A sociological view on the issue can also help shed some light onto why children may become violent from playing violent video games. Sociology is the study of human social behavior and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions. By using various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis, which are the methods used in social science, many sociologists have helped offer insight on the scenario. Lawrence Kholberg and his theory on moral development can help explain the issue.
Lawrence Kohlberg
Lawrence Kohlberg- Socialization
Lawrence Kohlberg hypothesized the Theory of Moral Development in which a person goes through stages to create their sense of right and wrong. The theory holds that moral reasoning, the basis for ethical behavior, has identifiable developmental stages, each more adequate at responding to moral dilemmas than its predecessor. Kohlberg's approach begins with the assumption that humans are intrinsically motivated to explore, and become competent at functioning in their environments. In social development, this leads us to imitate role models we perceive as competent and to look to them for validation. Kohlberg also held that there are common patterns of social life, observed in occurring social institutions, such as

, etc.

Stage One - what will avoid punishment and what’s in it for me?

Stage Two - how do others perceive my actions? what does the law say?

Stage Three - what is best for everyone? how do my actions affect others?
The Theory of Moral Development
Connection to violent video games and the effect on youth
According to Kohlberg's theory of Moral Development people go through stages to create their sense of right and wrong. He identifies that at the first stage you are morally undeveloped and will most likely do the wrong thing. As life goes by, you start to increasingly have a better look on life and develop ethical behavior. If a child, who is at the first stages of Moral development is constantly witnessing violent actions and it being perceived as okay, the violence might effect their moral development in way that corrupts it. Most violent video games promote violent actions and disrespect to authority and law. As Kohlberg's theory supports, we try to immitate role models that we perceive as competent. Many children now a days idolize characters in violent video games and the idea of the game mistaking them as competent. Children are also still developing physically and mentally. For that reason it is very easy to influence children negatively or positively. In conclusion, children are still developing morally, and if they are constantly witnessing wrong actions (like in violent video games) their sense of right or wrong can be corrupted, causing them to be violent.
From my analysis of the situation we can learn that children can become influenced by violent video games negatively. Personally, I believe the best solution to this problem is to ban extreme violent video games all at once because I believe that children nowadays are greatly effected by it. Realistically violent video games will never be banned merely for market purposes so I will be explaining more realistic, simple solutions that I believe will work in today's society.

According to Robert Zajonc's theory familiarity brings forward an attitude change in some form of preference for the familiar stimulus. For that reason a practical suggestion I can make for the future would be to simply avoid the amount of times children play violent video games, thus not making it a familiar stimulus. Parents can easily deduct the amount of time their children play violent video games. Instead they can allow for their video-gaming time to be mostly non-violent video games, allowing that to be their familiar stimulus. From Bandura's Bobo doll experiment we can infer that children can learn through observing and can easily learn violent acts from violent video games. From Lawrence Kohlberg's theory we learn that people go through stages to create their sense of right and wrong. A suggestion I can infer from these theories is simple. It doesn't cost any money and doesn't have to be passed by state or federal legislators. Parents tend to know the maturity of their child. Everyone matures at a different rate, and it’s up to the parents to decide on an individual basis what their child is capable of experiencing. At some point in your life you are developed enough to know that actions you see in video games or even the media are not always good, and you shouldn't repeat them and also to have a general sense of right or wrong. Once you are at that stage of development, violent video games should not effect you.
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