Violent Video Games and Short-term Aggression: What have Your Kids Learned Today?

Researchers Kevin Kieffer, assistant professor of psychology at Saint Leo University in San Antonio FL and Jessica Nicoll, also of Saint Leo University conducted the first large scale review of multiple studies on video game violence and aggression in children. They found that violent games with protagonists that hunt, maim and kill are linked to at least short-term aggression behaviors in children.

Their research wasn’t new in any way, rather their attempt was to review the literature on the subject in search for themes that may or may not be present among the individual studies. They found three distinct trends:

  1. Individuals who are subjected to violent media and video games tend to act more violent in the short-term
  2. Strong gender differences existed where boys tend to play these games much more often than girls
  3. The uncertainty of whether kids who might be more aggressive naturally are drawn to these types of games or whether it’s the gaming itself that is encouraging aggression

One thing that was clear however was that in the short-term kids showed more aggressive behavior after playing violent video games when compared to children who played non-violent games. Kieffer shared that the ongoing argument is not whether violent video games encourage short-term aggression, rather if the short-term effects translate into truly violent behavior over time.

It is without doubt that further, long-term studies need to be conducted to truly determine the overall impact on our children but let’s face it; our children learn by observation. In other words it’s not a question of whether or not our children “are” learning from these games but rather “what” they are learning.

If playing a violent video game can consistently be linked to aggressive behaviors in the short-term and your child spends 2+ hours a day playing these video games then it may be safe to assume his or her attitude is being directly influenced daily. In my experience as a parent and home educator, daily reputation builds a solid foundation for habits including our response to others. Looking at it from that perspective daily practice of aggressive behavior could lead to habitual aggression with a potential end result of truly violent behavior.

Kieffer tells parents that regardless of the outcomes of these types of debates kids are going to get their hands on these games anyway if they want them. He recommends that parents set up a relationship with their children where they can fully discuss these issues and help to counter the impact of video game violence.