, 2000). Specifically, the fact that video games portray extremely violent actions without a human cost can lessen a person's natural response (including empathy) in addition to promoting reckless conduct in real life.
It is not necessarily that teenagers consciously believe they can "do" what they see in the games the way children sometimes come to believe that they can fly. But they may absorb unconscious images that inhibit their ability to anticipate real-life consequences of certain choices and behaviors (Wilson, Smith, Potter, et al., 2002). According to the Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children presented to the Congressional Public Health Summit July 26, 2000 by several very prominent pediatricians and child psychologists:
"At this time, well over 1000 studies - including reports from the Surgeon
General's office, the National Institute of Mental Health, and numerous studies conducted by leading figures within our medical and public health organizations
- our own members - point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children. The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children. Its effects are measurable and long-lasting.
Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life." (Cook, Kestenbaum, Honaker, et al., 2000)
Concerns about Bullying:
Bullying in school has only relatively recently been recognized as significant problem throughout the modern educational environment.
Often, students identified as perpetual victims of bullying by classmates experience bullying in primary school; the same patterns are often apparent in those who become the bullies. As many as a third of all middle school and high school students say they have been the victim of bullying and for many of them, it seriously impacts their scholastic experiences (ExtremeTech.com, 2008). Studies have demonstrated a correlation between repeated exposure to depictions of violence (including participation in violent video games) and behavior related to bullying other children (AAP, 2001; Sherman, 2002).
With respect to bullying, video game violence is not only a potential issue with the bullies. Video games are popular among such large segments of the age-group population that children who are the victims of bullying also typically have video games. In the case of the bullies, repeated exposure to depictions of violence (especially with active participation) probably contributes to their behavior through various ways. However, it may also play an important role in the lives of victims, sometimes in ways that are equally harmful.
Children or teenagers who experience bullying may express some of their built up anger and hostility through their violent video games (Gentile & Gentile, 2005). Sometimes they enjoy blowing up or otherwise maiming, killing, or mutilating their opponents on screen, partly because it allows them to experience being on the other end of the abuse. Other times, they may specifically envision retaliating against their classmates, even giving their on-screen characters their names.
That is not to say that playing violent video games necessarily means that bullied children or teens will retaliate violently. But it may not be the healthiest way of dealing with their feelings nevertheless. Victims of bullying may already become less social and stay home more and more. The availability of violent video games as a means of expressing rage combined with the natural tendency to limit social contact could be much more limiting than either element strictly on its own. In fact, the concern has also been raised that social isolation, in general, is a negative aspect of our reliance on digital media and communications instead of face-to-face interactions and social relationships.
Concerns about Social Isolation:
One of the potential downsides of the widespread availability of digital media and modern forms of communications such as online social networks and mobile texting is that it may reduce our ability to learn some of essential social skills that are normally part of face-to-face interactions with others (Olson, 2004). Various social scientists have suggested that many in the current generation of students may not be developing the necessary social skills to be successful in professional life because so much of their communications take place through remote mechanisms.
Video games (both violent as well as non-violent) often involve complex characters and long-running relationships between characters, most commonly in some form of team-like competitive games. Usually, individuals whose characters are known to one another interact in a virtual world, whether those virtual worlds involve violent warfare and street gang-like violence or non-violent competitions and interactions. Internet games like "Second Life" became very popular when they first came out, and today, social networks like FaceBook and MySpace have become extremely important parts of teen social lives and personal identity. In both cases, teens (especially) have begun shifting major parts of their social lives to new media.
Regardless of whether individuals prefer violent video games or non-violent ones, many of them include some component of social "identity" with various degrees of actual connection to one's real life. There is a specific concern among many experts and educators that all of these games can promote antisocial tendencies, especially among troubled teens as well as among those who are simply very shy or self-conscious. In that respect, all video games (including those that feature violence prominently) may contribute to social isolationism among teens and young adults (Olson, 2004).
Concerns about Sensitivity and Empathy:
Several studies have examined the relationship between attitudes in children and the ways that exposure to various depictions of human relationships in media. Generally, those studies suggest that children may be affected in very specific negative ways by violence and other negative types of human (or humanlike) interactions. For example, children exposed more regularly to violent imagery on television or in video games are much more likely to choose antagonistic games that involve conflict and expressions of aggression and dominance over others than children of comparable age and background who were exposed less regularly to such imagery (Sherman, 2002).
Even before the issue of violence in video games ever came up, several studies had already established a connection between exposure to certain negative themes (including violence such as that depicted in classic Saturday morning cartoons, for example,) and preferences among schoolchildren and preschoolers for antagonistic games (Sherman, 2002). Children first exposed to negative imagery scored lower on various different measurements in the areas of mutual cooperation and the ability to empathize with others (AAP, 2001). Similarly, exposure to negative imagery corresponded to much greater preference for games that specifically emphasized imitation through play.
Even more generally, children exposed to negative imagery or violence also exhibited reduced responses to real-life situations designed to test their inclination to help others or to trust other people.
Concerns about Creating a Negative Worldview and Traumatizing Children:
Research into the effects of exposure to violent imagery on young children has documented that it affects some of their perceptions about the world in very basic negative ways. In one study, children were observed during playground and school interactions and their responses to questionnaires recorded. The results demonstrated significant differences in behavior. Children exposed to violent imagery consistently provided more negative responses to questions about their classmates and they also engaged in more aggressive and antagonistic types of play.
Even more importantly, children exposed to more violent media gave much more negative characterizations when asked questions about whether people were nice and whether the world is generally a happy place (Robinson, Wilde, Navracruz, et al., 2001). It is not clear how much the effects of these influences last and whether they play a significant role in determining a person's subsequent psychological development. On the other hand, children are extremely impressionable and the period of early childhood is referred to as the "formative years" for a very good reason. It is certainly conceivable that long-term, repeated exposure to digital depictions of violence in any form is more likely to produce children whose expectations of others and whose own behavior is more negative than less exposure to such stimuli throughout childhood.
Pediatricians also report that instances of nightmares and extreme fears increase substantially in relation to exposure to violent imagery, including in video and computer games that the child enjoys at the time of play (Shoja, Tubbs, Malekian, 2007). Just as horror movies are notorious for giving children nightmares, it is hardly surprising that equally vivid imagery in violent video games would have a very similar effect on young children.
Misogyny, Racial, and Social Stereotyping:
Rock and roll music was very much tied to sexuality even before the "Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll" era of the 1960s countercultural revolution. But beginning in the 1980's with rap music videos and later, the hip-hop genre, sexuality in music began to emphasize a…