Are Violent Video-Games Making Our Kids Violent?


August 24, 2015 by gregrabidoux2013

Boy (5-7) playing video game on television, elevated view

Boy (5-7) playing video game on television, elevated view

So, a recent study was just published by the American Psychological Association (there are always new studies, right?) and this one, shockingly (!) suggested a link between, get this, violent video-games and violent kids.

Yes, I know, if you are a parent or legal guardian and have ever told your kid “Enough with the decapitation, laser-burning and Level 12 kills” and got lots of grief and back-talk for your efforts then you already knew what the APA would find.

But the debate that has been raging for years when it comes to violent and vivid videogames and violent, aggressive behavior of those who play is not just “if there is a causal “link” but if the former actually causes the latter.

And this is where it becomes tricky. Both as a methodological research and behavioral outcome and a public policy issue.

violent video game

Violent video game where you are the killer.

If you’ve ever read, researched or even wondered out loud about these type of studies and concluded, “Man, there are a lot of things that could cause violent behavior,” then you already also have a good sense of the challenges academic researchers face when addressing this type of possible action-behavior link.

There ARE a lot of factors that can cause violent behavior in kids today, aren’t there?

Peer pressure, parent guidance or lack thereof, bullying, diet, nutrition, hormones, partially developed frontal lobes of the brain, and for all I know, subliminal messaging from SpongeBob SQ. Pants (!).

violent videogaming spongebob

What?? Don’t blame me, I’m annoying not violent!

But. Still.

Recently, over a holiday break I peeked in on the hi-tech, ultra-sound surround, sense-immersion of today’s videogames. This was easy research as a nephew of mine is in his words “a modern-day gamer.”

The gore, vivid nature of the “killings” and the immediate gratification and reinforcement of his “quick kills” (Mortal Kombat something or other I think it was) which the recent APA study concludes helps to re-wire young brains to truly enjoy and seek out the ‘”rush” violence provides, was astonishing.

And repugnant.

The insensitivity I also see when he and his friends watch shows that glorify violence and make sport” of violent and even tragic deaths on television (The Face of Death videos) is the same I see when he “games.”

Look, I don’t know if my nephew is now more prone to actual violence because of his gaming addiction or for that matter any of the millions of kids and adults who play this stuff but it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to dismiss all of these games and addictions to these games as innocent, harmless fun.

I do know that it seems far too many hours are being spent by our kids enjoying the endorphin boost they seem to get from the very vivid and ultra-realistic act of killing, maiming, decapitation and destruction of the images they see and the sounds of death and torture they hear and the rewards they get from these “games.”

violent videogaming man

One of the more “tame” visuals of this video “game.”

I am convinced now that the hours I spent watching shows like The Brady Bunch and playing games like RISK while growing up, while still probably a waste of time, sure didn’t make me blood thirsty. Perhaps, power-hungry and envious of a cool stay-at-home Dad but no desire for maiming that I recall.

Lawmakers like those in California and Arizona are once again deliberating whether to either ban certain videogames or make it harder for kids to get based on these and other studies I’ve referred about the video-violence link. A number of feminist groups like Code Pink are also becoming more vocal about the extremely misogynistic and hateful violence in so many of these games against women and girls. These and other activists claim that the message in the vast majority of these games is the drumbeat that girls and women are: 1) Nothing more than sex objects and 2) If they aren’t submissive then enjoy beating, raping and even killing them, because 3) They are sub-human.

Gamers and gaming advocates argue that again, there is no definitive proof that violent video games causes violent behavior and that these games even help kids and adults “vent” anger or rage into gaming which ultimately doesn’t hurt anyone, including females.

Why all the “rage” though to begin with?

After seeing some of these games they refer to it’s hard for me to argue with folks like Code Pink and their findings.

videogaming women

Harmless “fun” against women?

Maybe the answer is just to insist that our kids unplug and go outside and play more. Even if they do give us “death-stares” and grouchy grumblings in return.

As for me, I am starting to get why according to our State Department why terrorists are apparently training young kids to become terrorists by, you guessed it, playing countless hours of extremely violent video games.

I wonder, do they know something we don’t about links, causes and violence?

I also wonder, what are they teaching their kids and why and what about us?

How about you?


*After the Tiger there a few links you may want to check out. One is a good primer for parents about which games they may want to avoid for their kids and one is a recent TIME magazine article about this topic.



101 thoughts on “Are Violent Video-Games Making Our Kids Violent?

  1. Megan G says:

    This is definitely a thought provoking take on this topic. I have to say, I have never been one who enjoys video games, and I do not have any “gamers” in my immediate family. So, my personal experiences with this phenomenon are limited. I think that this is a debate that has lasted so long for a good reason; I think there is some validity to it. However, I do believe that other factors (nature vs nurture, etc) can affect this, and that more research needs to be done to have a final say on the matter.

    I will say this, though. I have seen the addictions that video games bring about. I have seen a video game addiction cause a 5 years marriage to end in divorce. I have seen how an addiction to technology can hinder peoples’ lives. Even in my own life, I have experienced my own periods of stress and irritability in my attempts to disconnect from technology. This is the not the same as violent video games inducing violence, and I understand that. However, I do think that all these things are related. What if my addiction to social media had violent undertones? What if there was an instant gratification type of reward for me acting violent online? I think this could make my attempts to stay away from technology even more terrible, and I do think there would be a real possibility of me violently acting out.

  2. Chaz S says:

    When it comes to violent video games, I do not believe that has an effect on the kids. I am a prime example. Growing up I played a lot of video games that deal with drugs, violence and sex. But it did not change my out look on things. I have never been in trouble for a violent crime. I have never been into a serious fist fight.
    I think its all about how your parents raise you. My parents allowed me to play any type of game as well as watch any type of movie. So as a study may show that violent games may cause a change in a child’s behavior. But I believe that it will be the parents fault.

  3. Cenetta B says:

    Growing up, the most violent video game I played was Star Wars: Clone Wars on XBox. I don’t think violent video games are a direct cause to violence as an adult, but I do think the violence in video games help numb children to violent acts. Games, in addition to all the other things parents allow children to watch with violence make the killing an everyday occurrence. That is where I believe parents should come in, by limiting how much their children are exposed to and sticking to age appropriate games. I don’t think a 7 year old should be playing Call of Duty, when Call of Duty is clearly rated M for mature.

  4. Autron H says:

    The video games of today are indeed in most cases are violent and extreme.In looking at this problem as a whole I cannot help but to wonder that I think that the parents of the kids need to explain that the difference in the video game and real life. In looking at posting this I still see where the involvement of the parent is paramount. I think there are cases where people think that many games are the same as the real world.I think that we should get the mindset of knowing what is right or wrong regarding video games. I do not think that this issue requires legislation or governmental involvement. The parent must learn to control and limit the involvement of the video games in the child’s life and let them see that their are other avenues of entertainment and enjoyment in life.

  5. Matt R says:

    I don’t believe you can lay the blame for violence on video games or TV. Yes, there are a few with a psychological problem that may identify themselves with their favorite game or TV show and actually come to believe that they are their favorite character. Heck from time to time I have dreams that I’m on Team Gibbs on NCIS. I don’t dress in a suit every day and smack people in the back of the head though (no matter how much I’d like to). The problem of violence and disrespect in our younger generation can be laid at the doorsteps of the parents. It can ALWAYS be laid at the doorsteps of the parents. How? Parents supply the video games right? If kids step out of line, how are they disciplined? ARE they disciplined? I was beaten every time I gave any adult, relative or not, any kind of misbehavior and I’m a better man today because of the discipline I received growing up. There are many violent people out there who never play video games and there are many people out there who DO play games who are the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. So, to lay it at the doorstep of a game is simply illogical. The parents raise the kids. If they grow up to be violent and it is NOT the result of a legitimate psychological problem, then it’s the fault of the parents. Plain and simple.

  6. wjwood says:

    Violent video games making kids violent- we hit this question every generations. It’s like the line out of Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start the Fire”- Heavy Metal, Suicides- enter Tipper Gore and her parental labels. I remember sitting in Sunday School while they played Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust but if you back mask it ( true child of the 80’s) it says it’s fun to smoke marijuana and then it was Knights in Satans Service- KISS- imagine a bunch of Jewish guys in grease paint.
    I don’t know if it’s video games or what but I think a lot of is the technological infusion that leads to the continued technological brainwashing kids endure. Today kids even younger ones are inundated with technology and I am not sure they even realize the violence in a game. More concerning is the loss of critical thinking, reading, and simple socialization. However, parents can be a calming influence on the technology and on the violent video games. I think the complete dependence on technology is just as dangerous.

  7. Laurie S. says:

    As a parent, I believe that parents need to pay attention to the games their children are playing and for how long. My son is only 6, but he has already found a love of gaming. There are some games that my husband plays that I will not let my son be in the same room with. I know he has classmates that play these games because I have heard them talk about them in social situations I have been at. A six year old should not be playing Until Dawn, they should be playing Skylanders. Parents need to be well read on the games their children are playing, not just taking their word on if it is a good game.

    When parents let their children go down to the basement or lock themselves in their room and game for hours on end there is something that happens to their mental state. While they may not be shooting up schools, they are not on the path to being productive members of society either. Childhood and teenage years should be full of friends, sleepovers, sports, clubs, camps etc… not just a television screen and virtual “friends”

  8. Charles H says:

    I agree….the main argument is that it is an avenue for venting therefore allowing individuals to release aggression in more “constructive” and less physically violent ways, but I ask the same question….why so aggressive? I think this is a problem that sadly will only get worse largely because it is being accepted by parents. With such busy lives, many working parents have difficulty creating environments that are conducive to learning and teaching due to time constraints, and video games for the last 20 years has been a quasi-babysitter, the only problem is that the games have changed from Mario Bros and Zelda to Assassins. This is a problem born almost 3 decades ago with the invention of Nintendo and sadly it has become ingrained in American childhood and adolescence. Establishing harsher rules at purchase an forcing parents to understand the content of these games is integral to curbing this problem as it pertains to young minor children. Adults…..well there’s no helping that just short of doing away with the games all together…and we all know that isn’t happening. .

  9. Keir B. says:

    This is an interesting study. I absolutely think that there is at least some type of correlation between children and violent video games and actual violence. I also think that there are other factors that can contribute as well. About a month ago, my child was accused of being a bully for rough play while playing football at schoo. Now, whe is currently finishing up his second season of contact football as an organized sport. In his mind, it was okay to tackle the other children that he was playing football with because he does it at practice. Personally, I wouldn’t categorize his rough housing as being a bully, but administration thought otherwise. Let’s just say that I’m glad that he’s into sports related video games.

  10. CC says:

    As a player of some of these violent games and a parent of a young son (6) and a baby girl, I would like to say that it is a parents responsibility to monitor the media that is displayed before a child’s eyes. I play various games with him on consoles that have mild violence no gore (Teraria, MineCraft, 2D Castlevania, and various Mario games. But, I would not allow my child to watch me play violent games for any amount of time longer than a few seconds glance if he came by(Call of Duty, GTA).At any rate, this is about much more than just video games. It’s about the failure of parent being parents and letting in-appropriate media being displayed before children. Video games are easy to avoid because they have age ratings that tell someone what the intended audience is for a specific product. Media that adults watch and allow children to watch can be very damaging.This type of media includes volgar language, sex, drugs, alcohol and verbal/ physical abuse to keep the list short. If the generation of parents controlled the media us we would be in a better place.

  11. Welch says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I like to play video games. I like the distraction it brings from the real world problems of my profession (law enforcement). I find that about once every six months I like to ‘veg’ out on the old console and play for about two days straight. To be honest, I do not think that I have ever completed a game. That being said, I do not like all the blood, gore, and foul language that accompanies many of these ‘modern games’. However, I have found that many developers have taken parents objections regarding the issues presented in this article to heart. They have done this by including ways to dumb down the gore and language by adjusting it in the settings menu.

    I also agree with Code Pink’s assessment about women in video games. Women are definitely objectified. If you need any evidence, all you have to do is play a fantasy game involving swords and armor. The difference between that male protagonist’s armor and a female protagonist’s armor is ridiculous. A male is completed covered from head to toe. However, the female might be only sporting something akin to the ‘thong and bra of invincibility’.

    Of course the real question is whether these games are affecting our children. In my opinion common sense should tell you that over exposure to something can definitely desensitize a person.

    • Leggett says:

      This is an interesting question as I’ve battled with myself off and on over the years on whether I should let my kids continue to play violent video games such as mortal combat, metal gear solid, etc. after I had watched the games while they were playing them for just the reasons mentioned in this blog.

      In the end I decided to let them continue to play the games even bought newer versions of the games for birthdays and Christmases; I knew how many hours my kids were playing them, which was loads but my kids also had to constantly hear me say to them “remember these games are for entertainment purposes only”. So to address the question do I believe in my heart that violent games contribute to violent tendencies? I don’t have a simple answer because my kids turned out just fine; in the end I too believe that a number of things/situations/environments/possibly violent video games creates the individual or in this instance child who displays and acts upon violent behavior and definitely an overexposure to scenes/actions that depict violence could lead to desensitization.

  12. Savianna T says:

    I don’t think video games directly induce violence behavior but I do believe it does SOMETHING to the brain. Many kids have nightmares, envision violent scenarios in certain situations as a resolution, end up watching violent movies in connection, and even become insensitive to violence as if it is a normal everyday thing. I think in order for that to happen something has to be triggered in the brain to induce such a reaction. It is probably hard to connect video games with violence because even the people who don’t play video games and live normal lives are the most violent so what would be the connection for them? There may be already some type of trait in a person that causes that type of behavior to be acceptable to them in the first place. However, children are sponges and are still developing at young ages so if they haven’t learned certain things that need to be carried with them as an adult and they don’t have a guardian who is active in their lives video games could be a heavy influence. The environment in which the child lives his/her daily life in would be a big factor as well.

  13. Kelly Strozier says:

    Violent video games are making our kids violent but it is only one avenue. The violence is usually bred in the homes of the children who love to play these games for hours on end. I do believe there is a strong link between violent video games and violent kids. Repeatedly having violent acts as a visual in your everyday life has got to affect them in some way and I am sure not positively. I do not believe that stricter laws will deter or keep the games out of the hands of minors. Parents will continue to buy the product because the child wants it and may not see any potential harm in their child playing it. Besides it’s only a video game! It won’t be until the mindset of the parents and the makers and manufacturers of the games change drastically, before we see any improvement in the quality and content of the games.

  14. valdostaphil says:


    Doubtful. Desensitizing to the stuff, maybe. But most people know the difference between digital bits and real people. It’s the capacity for empathy. And I don’t think anyone is saying that video games are making sociopaths. If video games are so bad, why were humans so violent before they existed? Oh yeah, human nature and greed. I wish we should evolve beyond violence since I’m almost a pacifist. Almost. But blaming video games and movies isn’t going to solve the problem, because eliminating video games and violent movies won’t fix the problem either. This runs much deeper and we should acknowledge that if we ever want to make strides in reducing the causes of violence. Ending poverty would be a good start because then there would be fewer desperate people in the world wondering where their next meal is coming from and willing to do anything to get it. Poverty isn’t a state of immorality. Financial excess and greed in the face of others’ suffering from hunger in the richest and most powerful countries on Earth is the state of immorality.

  15. Leroy R. Trower says:

    This is a very good question. What are the video games doing to our children? There is a saying that says, “You are what you eat”. Many times when kids just spend all day on these video games, it does take effect on them mentally. Sometimes they want to try out the moves that they see. It is the parents responsibility to evaluate what their kids are doing. I can speak from experience. One of my stepsons wanted the PS4. He also wanted the 2 mortal combat games that came with it. His mom wanted him know that he was not going to get the rated one. She wanted him to have the lowest one that there was. Once he did get the game, his behavior changed. He began to do the things that he saw on tv. We got smart and removed the games from him. Many times children want to imitate what they want to be like. Video games don’t make children violent, the world itself is violent. These are issues that they see everyday. If children come from a violent home, this could rear its head in their own personal life. They will do the things that they see,and are comfortable with that. Thats why its the parents job to set a good example for their children.

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