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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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  • 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'm usually all-for telling parents to get their shit in order and to do a good job raising their kids, but going on about the ideal situation is to miss some valuable details about what effect these things have on development. We should accept the fact that many, many families lack parental guidance, and the results should be studied and understood.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:41PM (#35714028)

    My son went through a phase where he watched a lot of dysfunctional family shows like Family Guy and American Dad. After a while his personality started changing; he was angry, frustrated, snappish, and not really an asset to the family, very much like the characters on the show. We talked it over and he stopped watching the shows. Within a week he was back to being his "normal" self.

    Say what you will, but young kids (my son was 9 a tthe time) are heavily influenced in their behavior by what they see on TV and do with video games.

    I know a lot will argue that violent games don't have any impact on kids' behavior. This is slashdot after all. But as a parent, yes they do.

  • by elucido ( 870205 ) * on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:51PM (#35714208)

    Such as if you play a game and you play violently, maybe your enemy just attacks you harder, forcing you to be more tactical rather than just trying to rambo your way through the AI.

    Also dying in a game should be a bit more painful. You lose all your gear and you start at the first level, thats how it was when I played growing up. They didn't have a "save" feature.

  • by martyros ( 588782 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @06:10PM (#35714480)

    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?

    Because we don't learn primarily through word of mouth instruction, but by example and imitation. Our subconscious learns things by inference, not by logical deduction. Inference comes from stories, example, and our behavior. When we act consistently with a belief (such as, "I'm not that interesting to people"), we tend to strengthen that belief.

    I've definitely noticed this, for example, in watching movies. In the last year or so a friend of mine has been organizing "movie nights" for our group of friends about twice a month; and since I don't really care much about what kind of movie to see (it's more about hanging out and having a shared experience), and he really likes action flicks, we see a lot of action flicks -- where violence is really the only solution to most problems. I've definitely noticed a change in my gut reaction when I encounter aggressive behavior in real life.

    Now, I think you're right, if a child is getting a moderate amount of violence in video games (a few hours a week), and is getting a lot of positive examples in other areas of life -- interaction with parents, friends, coaches, &c -- on the balance the video games won't really have that large of an effect.

    But if there aren't many positive influences, it can go into a negative feedback loop. For example, say his parents are mostly absent, so he's a little more aggressive when playing with friends or playing sports. So most kids don't really like being around him, and his coach tells him he can't be on the team. So he ends up with mostly more aggressive friends (whom he doesn't really like either, but at least they put up with him), and not many rewarding things to do in his free time other than play violent video games. And if his aggressive friends are more likely to get him into other kinds of things... you see where this might go.

    There's a lot in this example that went wrong of course -- parents who weren't really doing their job, the unlucky lack of an adult to step in and invest in him for the better, or the particular circumstances of the people at school. No one thing would cause all the badness; but it's not hard to see how violent video games could definitely contribute to the problem.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva