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Video Games and Teen Violence Correlations

With the rising increase in teen violence, much research has been directed to determine if video games, violent television shows and other electronic media is directly related. Gentile, D.A. & Anderson C.A (2003) has done extensive research in which supports the theory that video games lead to violence.

With the rising increase in teen violence, much research has been directed to determine if video games, violent television shows and other electronic media is directly related. Gentile, D.A. & Anderson C.A (2003) has done extensive research in which supports the theory that video games lead to violence. Olson, C.K. (2003) claims media violence has no correlation to youth violence. One thing is for sure is that this will be an ongoing debate for years to come as the demand for more violent games increase even if the rate of violence follows a similar rate of growth as the trend is today.

            According to Gentile, D.A & Anderson, C.A. (2003), “researchers consider as “violent” those games in which the player can harm other characters in the game… In many popular video games, harming other characters is the main activity. It is these games, in which killing occurs at a high rate, that are of most concern to media violence researchers, child advocacy groups, and parents.” (p. 351) It is further noted by Gentile, D.A & Anderson, C.A. (2003) that an increasing amount of young children are most interested in violent video games “in which the main action is predominately human violence or fantasy violence.” (p. 351) However, blaming the manufacturer is not the problem. These games are not for sale to minors and have been regulated to curtail the sale to minors. Parents should take responsibility for what games they are buying for their child.

            Gentile, D.A. & Anderson, C.A. (2003) cite six reasons for why violent video games may have a greater effect the violent television. 1) Identification with an aggressor increases imitation of the aggressor. Children imitate what they see and characters on television are more unpredictable than video game characters. It is claimed that children interacting with television characters have the choice of imitating the victim, while in violent video games the role of the player is mainly the shooter or aggressor. 2) Active participation increases learning.  To become more proficient at any video game we must have active participation. When we watch violent television shows, we are passive observers. When we are playing violent video games, we are required to actively participate and usually we are the main character which is the aggressor. 3) Practicing an entire behavioral sequence is more effective than practicing only a part. Killing is multi-step process and television rarely shows all steps involved such as planning, stalking and the violent act itself. Video games give practice lessons. “This helps teach the steps necessary to commit a successful act of aggression. In fact, some video games are so successful at training whole sequences of aggressive behaviors that the U.S. Army has licensed them to train their forces.” (p. 352). 4) “Violence is continuous. In television violence, it usually last only a few minutes before commercials or changes in scenes.  Playing an entire video game calls for total focus, long periods of violent exposure, viewing death and screaming “which is incompatible with feelings of empathy or guilt.” 5) Repetition increases learning. “With few exceptions (e.g., Blue’s Clues), children rarely see the same television shows over and over. In a violent video, however, players often spend a great deal of time doing the same aggressive actions (e.g., shooting things) over and over.” Usually a child’s favorite violent video game is played over and over.  6) Rewards increase imitation. Winning in a violent game usually involves taking the most lives and points accumulate for participation.

            An interesting studies of violent video games increasing aggressive action, Gentile, D.A. & Anderson, C.A. (2003) claims that aggressive behaviors and frustration levels increased due to exposure to violent video games. The research was conducted by experimental and non-experimental studies. The research participants were males, females, children and adults who were non-violent behavior video games.  

            According to Bartholow, B.D., Davis, E.B., & Sestir, M.R. (2005), “Despite media industry denials (see Bushman & Anderson, 2001) and consumer skepticism (see Bartholow et al., 2003), research indicates that exposure to video game violence has numerous harmful consequences. Short-term exposure causes increases in aggressive behavior (Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Bartholow & Anderson 2002; Cooper & Mackie, 1986), aggressive thoughts (Bushman, 1998; Calvert & Tan, 1994; Kirsh, 1998), aggressive affect (Anderson & Ford, 1986; Ballard & Weist, 1996), and aggressive schemata (Bushman & Anderson, 2002), and decreases in pro-social behavior and attitudes (Carnagey, Bushman,& Anderson, 2005).” (p. 1)

            According to Bartholow, B.D., Davis, E.B., & Sestir, M.R. (2005), In addition to these short-term consequences, long term violent video game use has been shown to correlate with aggressive behavior and delinquency (Anderson et al., 2004; Anderson & Dill, 2000; Colwell & Payne, 2000; Gentile et al., 2004). However, more research is needed to understand the long-term consequences of violent video game play.” (p. 1574) This statement seems to contradict itself as it says there is link to long term consequences, but then immediately stated that their needs more further study to support this fact.

            Olson, C.K. (2004) believes that violent video games and violent television shows have no correlation to increased youth violence. Multiple studies have shown that violent crimes such as rape, murder, robbery and assault, along with property crimes rates at their highest was during the era before violent video games. Olson, C.K. (2004) further claims:

“Interestingly, the sharp temporary rise in juvenile murders from 1983 to 1993 has been attributed to a rapid rise in gun use, concentrated among black male adolescents…And what of juvenile arrests for property crimes? In 2001, these achieved their lowest level in over 30 years. In other words, there’s no indication that violence rose in lockstep with the spread of violent games.” (p. 361)

            The most surprising fact found in Olson’s research was that violent video games such as Blood Rayne can be purchased at Toy R Us stores. Olson, C.K. (2004) claims “Similar to R-rated movie restrictions, retailers are supposed to prevent sales of M-rated games to youth under age 17.” This brings the consumer age down to underage adolscents who will aquire these games either through friends or family who are old enough to purchase these games for them.

            Olson, C.K. (2004) claims “A final problem with using aggression as surrogate for violence is that most children who are aggressive or engage in antisocial behavior do not grow up to be violent adolescents or adults, and most violent adolescents are not notably aggressive as children.” (p. 363)

            My son is 16 years old. He enjoys playing video games such as Gears of War and Halo 3. However, he is kind, compassionate and understands that what he is playing is a game, but if he did these things to people in reality, they can be people seriously hurt or killed, and he could go to jail for that reason. Millions of people who play the games understand this as well.  However, the rate of violence definitely does not reflect the number of people playing these violent games…that is an important factor itself! Parents have the choice to let their children play these games or not. Parents need to pay more attention to what their children are playing and if they notice any change in behavior for playing this games, they should intervene. The video game makers are going to cater to their cliental. They will continue to produce these games as long as there is a demand for them.


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Comments (22)

Nice write-up! Personally, I do believe that there is a link between the two in some cases, but not depends upon the home environment, too Also, parents should monitor what their children do for recreational fun. Thanks for posting Voted

Ranked #3 in Psychology

So much of the questions lie within the actual internal make up of the child. I know some kids who can play the military killing games and be the sweetest young adult. Which brings into focus the age of the child too. More over ,why???, I have asked myself would that kind of ENTERTAINMENT be a choice over other forms. I did not permit my children (however long they were in the house) to be influenced in horror, damaging character activities and violence. I kept peace when there did not seem to be a way to get that in situations. My children were usual kids. You have a great article here with very valuable contents. thank you.

Good thing you shared this one since data are based on actual studies.

Video can greatly influence one's character, especially the children who do not know how to distinguish good and bad.

Very good points. I still question myself whether I should allow my kids to play with video games or not.

wonderful games, if properly explained, will be of help in the child's development..

Yovita, I think if you want to try, supervise them and see what kinds of reactions and imitations your kids are getting before allowing them to continue. Thanks for the support.

So true, it has often bothered me that people deny the relationship, even saying "they know it is not true". Well I know Bambi was not true too but I still felt emotions, of course this does affect kids. Stumbled, well done.

Thanks so much for this analysis; it definitely brings up points to consider. Voted up.

Thank you so much for the kind support!

My son who has autism plays these games and he is quite aware of what is real and what is not. However, I believe that parents should supervise behaviors before ever letting them play these games. Are the kids aggressive before even playing these games? If so, I would hold off on allowing them to play the violent games.


This is a good article to prevent children in engaging themselves into violence using either online or offline games. Nice article, thanks voted and shared.

Ranked #14 in Psychology


A well researched piece, nice work Chris!

Ranked #19 in Psychology

This is a well researched article on violent video games. I have a nephew who's hooked and the problem is how to wean him out of these addictive games. But he is still a loving person that he is. There is just something in the games that's difficult to detach. For this reason, parents should really take seriously what their kids need as games fulfill a part of their desires. More time should be devoted by parents to guide their children to do things in moderation.

@Patrick Regionel, thank you for your comment. I believe you are correct in moderation but I also think that parents should spend more quality time with their children with fun activities for the entire family.

Ranked #4 in Psychology

I've played a lot of violent video games and never been a violent person in real life, however I do have bad thoughts, which I think everyone does.

Your article is very to the point. You have detailed all aspects, I agree that parents should intervene if there is any change in their children's attitude. A great post, my friend, thank you.

voted up, thanks

Nice article with essential tips. Thank you Chris. Voted. Please consider our friendship.

Very well written. You are good at taking research data and presenting it in a very readable, interesting  form. I think that there is a correlation, although many children who play violent games are not violent in real life, and many children who have no access to video games, especially those who are exposed to real life violence in war zones,grow up playing pretend fighting with real life playmates. 

I think that any teacher who has supervised elementary school children during recess playtime can attest to the influence of cartoons on children by the roles they take on during free play.