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Games Science

Do Violent Games Hinder Development of Empathy? 343

donniebaseball23 writes "Although there's yet to be a study that conclusively proves a direct causal relationship between video game violence and real-life violence, psychologists are continuing to examine the effect violent media can have on children. A new study in the Journal of Children and Media notes that violent video game exposure can actually hinder a child's moral development. 'Certainly not every child who continues to play violent video games is going to go out and perpetrate a violent act, but the research suggests that children — particularly boys — who are frequently exposed to these violent games are absorbing a sanitized message of "no consequences for violence" from this play behavior,' said Professor Edward T. Vieira Jr."
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Do Violent Games Hinder Development of Empathy?

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  • by cheekyjohnson ( 1873388 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:35PM (#35713928)

    I believe that only a few of them would get that message. But even if they did, instead of having parents ban the games for the child, why don't they teach them otherwise and then let them play them?

  • by cheekyjohnson ( 1873388 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:44PM (#35714060)

    They're concerned with the varying percentage of kids whose parents won't take the time / know better to talk to them and give context, etc. Ideally, sure, all the world's parents would have a bit of guidance and insight for each of the things their kids see/hear/experience, but we know that's not the case.

    I see. However, the number of children who would get such a message from a fictional piece of entertainment are few in number, I think. That number can be thinned even further if they have responsible parents. What you're likely left with is a few children who do get this message, but they are so few in number that they are likely not worth worrying about (well, in the sense that games should be censored or banned for children, anyway).

    We should accept the fact that many, many families lack parental guidance, and the results should be studied and understood.

    Then those families shouldn't have children.

  • by KillAllNazis ( 1904010 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:52PM (#35714216)
    I can agree with this. Children are very impressionable of course and they are not very good at distinguishing fact from fiction. Parents probably sometimes forget this or view it as normal childish innocence, forgetting that a child can draw conclusions on other things based on their false knowledge and ideas seeded in formative years are of course persistent. Long running shows particularly become a fixture in the lives of children, and sometimes entire families. Disclaimer - This post based on limited personal experience.
  • by grapeape ( 137008 ) < minus author> on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:53PM (#35714236) Homepage

    For quite a while I was an advocate of the idea that since I've played games for years and it hasn't had an effect on me that its not an issue. However, one cannot ignore a drastic change in the behavior of kids today, empathy being one of the biggest changes I have noticed. I have witnessed some truly horrible things that have happened at my kids schools that simply didn't happen or were even thought of when I was young. I can remember when I was a kid shooting a bird with a bb gun, I felt so guilty about it that I don't think I ever used that bb gun again, but here in my neighborhood we had a couple of kids going around and killing pets repeatedly and after being caught they laughed about it.

    One difference I have realized that I had ignored previously is that I didn't grow up with even semi realistic games, in fact when I was a small child games didn't even exist beyond pong, space invaders, fact the most violent games I can remember were things like death race and boot hill. While I know one of the popular arguments has been that movies, tv and books have depicted violence since their beginnings, but there is a big difference that I think is ignored. In other media the person perpetuating the violence is someone else, in modern games even if the character is visually on screen its still the player directing their actions. As adults we are able to separate fantasy from reality, for kids thats not so clear. While I would never advocate banning games, I do think that children can be far more susceptible to influence than we want to believe. It should be a parents job to mold and guide their children, I know that I try to, but many parents don't which brings up the dilemma of how to deal with it when parents dont do their jobs. The easy answer is to blame bad parents but that doesn't fix problem and society is still left to deal with it.

  • by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:55PM (#35714262)
    Perhaps a similar study or "side by side" study should be performed on basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, and football.

    Because, we all know hockey and football are the worst for anger issues, then soccer (if outside the US and Canada).

    I will bet it will be higher percentages for physical contact sports. A PR term for "violent sport"
  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:55PM (#35714264)

    It's a valid point, you don't see people getting up in arms when it's a female protagonist beating or generally abusing male antagonists. I gave up watching most prime time TV because it was typical for the wives to behave like abusive bitches and for the husbands to more or less cower.

    One has to wonder whether it's not as big a problem as is advertised or whether men just have that little value in modern society.

  • by elucido ( 870205 ) * on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:58PM (#35714310)

    As a result children have less empathy. Empathy isn't rewarded in society. Look at this society and tell me why you'd expect any other result besides less empathy from children?

    Do the corporations have any empathy? So why expect it from children?

  • by Skidborg ( 1585365 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:59PM (#35714330)
    The thing is, when you actually go outside with your friends and play swordfight or war, you learn a degree of empathy that you don't get from video games since you won't have anyone left to play with if you insist on actually harming people. With video games, there's an entire internet full of strangers for you to remorselessly frag/spawncamp/teabag so there's no reason to learn how to actually socialize with them or even consider them to be human beings.
  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @06:03PM (#35714384)

    However, the number of children who would get such a message[...] are few in number I think

    Exactly. "You think"!

    And that right there is why its worthy of study. Lets actually find out how few in number it is.

    Then those families shouldn't have children.

    And the only way you get to enforce that is a policy of eugenics, forced abortions, and sterilization.

    I may well agree that many people shouldn't have children, but I have no desire whatsoever to live in a society that actually tries to decide who and then enforces it.

  • by Lead Butthead ( 321013 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @06:29PM (#35714690) Journal

    Every sponsor of the study has its own angle on the issue, as such the result of the study is already predestine to prove the sponsor right. It's largely irrelevant what the result is as the result is pegged long before any data is collected or interpreted.

    Studies that disproved their sponsors' views have ways of disappearing into unfunded abyss.

  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @06:53PM (#35714964) Journal

    The imagination is a powerful thing. I've seen kids come out of the movie theater after watching Kung Fu Panda, and they were trying to kung fu fight each other. That was after what... 90 minutes of animated animals fighting each other. I remember when Power Rangers was popular. Kids all over the place were "playing" Power Rangers, punching and hitting and kicking at each other.

    Violence is an innate inclination in human beings. Part of becoming cultured and civilized is learning to find other solutions to inter-personal problems that do not involve the quick and dirty inclination to just simply remove the problem.

    On one level the issue is the cultural acceptance of certain behaviors. Look at a game like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that portrays the gang life style. Sure, there are gangsters in any city of any reasonable size. Yet to glorify that behavior to the point where you are allowing children to live it sends the wrong messages. It delivers the message that such behavior is okay. Perhaps it is funny. Dangerous? Nope, it's a video game. You die and come back to life.

    During play time, children try on roles. Every second they spend "playing" a socially destructive role is a second wasted where their mind is not focused on making positive contributions to their environment.

  • by cheekyjohnson ( 1873388 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @06:56PM (#35714990)

    And how many children actually become violent in real life because of this? Based on statistical evidence that I've seen, not many at all. The most some studies have been able to do is correlate temporary aggressive thoughts with violent entertainment. But, as far as I know, that was it.

    Every second they spend "playing" a socially destructive role is a second wasted where their mind is not focused on making positive contributions to their environment.

    The same could be said about just about every hobby.

  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @11:11PM (#35716636)

    One has to wonder whether it's not as big a problem as is advertised or whether men just have that little value in modern society.

    It has more to do with being at the tail end of a time period when spousal abuse of women was considered normal and was tolerated, so there was a big push to alter its depiction in the media to discourage it. Now that times have changed some, albeit not enough yet, one of the side effects of abused women finally being able to come forward and seek help is that the much smaller number of men who have been abused by their wives are beginning to be able to come forward. They're still mostly below the radar, but as public awareness of the problem grows, expect there to be a backlash against thoughtless media depictions of it.

    There are always loud reactionaries associated with any kind of attempt to deal with social problems, but for the vast majority of reasonable people, it's not an us-versus-them thing. It's just a matter of directing limited resources at the most serious -- or just most visible -- problems first.

The absent ones are always at fault.