Can Video Games Make My Child Violent?
This question and many like it have been asked for decades every time there is a new “fad”, video game, or experiential product that catches our children’s engagement.
Over the summer, our parenting book “Checkpoints and Autosaves; Parenting Geeks To Thrive in the Age of Geekdom” was released and has received great praise from parents, teachers, and therapists who work with young gamers. Over the next week or so, I want to bust some of the myths that the media and social media influences have pushed over the last couple years regarding video games and the psychological impact they actually have on our children.
Before I launch into this series, I want to be as transparent as possible. I myself do not have children, however, I have nephews who are intense games, so intense that the younger was scouted to go pro during the height of FortNites esports events prior to the pandemic. So, I understand the intensity of that can come from video gaming and young people, the emotional and social impact gaming has on the gamer and families, and the symptoms of when the e-sport has reached a breaking point for both family members and gamer. With that, I hope that my perspective on the topic of interacting with children as a provider, teacher, or parent is not diminished by not having my own children.
Since the pandemic, the overuse of screen time and video games have been used to create a narrative that gaming is creating a negative impact on children and that video game addiction is on the rise. Dozens of influencers who claim to hold expertise in parenting have skewed the perspective on gaming with anecdotal evidence and parroting of misinterpreted data. Dr. Bean (2022) highlights this in an easy to understand way as he addresses the misunderstanding that many parents have when it comes to their children and the games they engage with. He points out that many parents look to the internet, social media influences, and bloggers in hopes of finding the perfect plan to rid their child of video games or learn from other parents who have successfully got their kids off of games. However, this armchair parenting expertise in video games is wildly inaccurate and not founded in facts. But what is based in fact is that 97% of youth today are playing some sort of video game (Bean, A, 2022) and that number is going to be declining anytime soon.
I want to focus on the first of many misconceptions that Dr. Bean fact checks and talk about the moral panic that comes with it. The idea that video games cause individuals to become violent and act in violent ways have been addressed over and over in the media for decades and even more so since the Sandy Hook Shooting (Bean, A, 2022). As a gamer myself, I grew up with people judging my mom because she allowed my brother and I to play whatever video games we liked and when we both took a liking to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, we heard the constant echo of these types of shooter and violence driven stories turning children towards violence. As I am typing this, I am laughing. I know this to be false but the trope seems to never change. Even after peer reviewed data that declared video games do not create serial killers, the morality police still insist on misrepresenting the data and scream as loud as they can with the hopes of gaining the attention of panicked parents of gamers.
In the book, we are given a quick research lesson on how data is collected and what the differences are between correlation and causation. The example provided by Dr. Bean is clear and makes me want to get a strawberry and smash it on a white tee shirt just so I can have the visual aid to go with this perfect example of understanding the variables and how it relates to video games and aggression.
With the data provided, the myth that video games create violence is busted and the decades old question that we started with of “Can video games make my child violent?” is proven to be wrong. Dr. Bean (2022) explains that research found gamers who presented with calm personality characteristics continued to experience those characteristics post game play however, gamers who already presented with aggressive tendencies continued to possess those characteristics in and out of game time. Therefore, the game itself did not make the gamers more or less violent and was not the cause of new aggressive behaviors in gamers.
So, parents of gamers, if you are or have been concerned about video games causing your child to become aggressive or violent due to playing video games yet your child has never experienced or presented with violent or aggressive tendencies, it is safe to say that gaming is not going to create a violent streak in your child. If you are concerned with the games your child plays, I highly suggest seeking out reviews of the game on YouTube, twitch, and TikTok prior to purchasing the game in order to have a better understanding of the game, the story, and the experiences your gamer will have while engaging with the material. If you decide to purchase the game, I recommend having a conversation with your gamer about what they like about the game and what they don’t like about it. This action will provide insight into your gamers experiences as well as allow them to know that you are supportive of their hobby and that you are interested in what they are currently consuming. Small conversations can go a long way and when we engage with our gamers, we tend to see them engage with us more frequently!
If you or someone you know is looking for a modern parenting guide on navigating the wonderful world of geekdom and parenting gamers and geeks of all kinds, pick up “Checkpoints and Autosaves” in our bookstore today!