The pervasive culture of bullying and cyber bullying in schools has become a serious dilemma for many students and parents, and has been brought on by many different aspects of life, but how does the violence that children are exposed to in video games come into play when it comes to children bullying others both online and in person? This is a serious question with no easy answers, but this paper will attempt to address the issue through personal experience, interviews, and academic sources. By considering several different types of sources, it is easier to understand the seriousness of the issue and how much it affects daily life for a large number of people.
According to DoSomething.org (2013), there are 3.2 million students bullied each year, and "each day there are 160,000 students who skip school" because of the bullying they endure there (DoSomething.org, 2013). That is a serious issue not just for their self-esteem and emotional health, but also for their academic careers. They can have trouble concentrating and miss a lot of school due to being fearful of their treatment or just not being able to handle the way people treat them. However, whether violent video games play a role in students' bullying of other students is also an important aspect of the equation that is not always considered or studied as strongly as it should be.
These kinds of problems were seen in the interviews that were conducted for this paper. The researcher spoke with two close friends -- Sarah and Roger - about their personal issues with bullying, in order to gain insight that does not come from a textbook or journal article. It can be very helpful to find information from local or personal sources, as the stories they tell are often "closer to home" than reading something about an unknown person's experience with bullying. When personal Experience is combined with local stories and professional, scholarly sources, a much more complete picture of bullying can be drawn.
According to a study done regarding aggression in students and how that relates to their experience playing violent video games, there was a direct link between the two issues (Moller & Krahe, 2009). In other words, of the students in the study, a statistically significant number of those who played violent video games demonstrated increased aggression in their lives (Moller & Krahe, 2009). The effects of violent video game use were also long-term, with the students still showing more aggressive tendencies 30 months later (Moller & Krahe, 2009). More boys than girls play these video games, but both genders are represented among gamers and also among bullies and those who are bullied in the student population throughout the world (Moller & Krahe, 2009).
Violence is a part of the U.S. culture, and the cultures of many other countries. It is seen on TV and in other forms of media, and can be even more prevalent in video games (Moller & Krahe, 2009). According to Moller & Krahe (2009), "content analyses of video games unanimously suggest that violent scenes are as frequent or even more present in this medium as in movies and television shows" (p. 75). Many games are rated for graphic violence, and some are not even sold to underage players because of the violence within them (Moller & Krahe, 2009). Adolescents are often very interested in violent games, because "adolescence is a time when trait aggression increases (especially in boys)" (Moller & Krahe, 2009, p. 75). Another contributing concern is that the graphics in video games have become so realistic (Moller & Krahe, 2009). With that sense of realism, the violence is also made more real.
While it is certainly impressive that graphics have evolved to that level of professionalism and provided such a realistic experience for the game player, there is also a concern that these graphics can encourage the gamer to act out more violently in his or her real life, as well (Moller & Krahe, 2009). Of course, there are many people who play violent video games and who do not engage in violent behaviors, as well. Additionally, there are violent people and bullies who do not play video games. While there is a correlation that appears to be significant from a statistical point-of-view, it is only one of the facets that can be used to explain bullying and cyber bullying behavior in students (Moller & Krahe, 2009). There are many other factors that must also be considered.
Understanding bullying is somewhat easier with direct, personal evidence of the issue at play in the lives of people one knows. To that end, the researcher interviewed two friends and asked them about their experiences with bullying, violence, and video games. Both were gamers, as is the researcher, and both had played violent games in the past, again, as had the researcher. First to be interviewed was Roger. He is 26, and works as a computer programmer. He was bullied in middle and high school. When asked about the tendency to feel violent afterward, Roger admitted that he had "felt like punching everybody" when he lost a life or when the game ended (Channing, 2013).
Sarah was also interviewed. She is 31, and is a stay-at-home mom to two little boys who are 5 and 7 years old. She was bullied in high school, and to some extent is still bullied by people from her past who find her online presence. While Sarah was not as angry over the game as Roger, she did have feelings of "despair and depression" if she was not able to perform well at the game, especially if she was "playing with friends or if they were watching" (Britton, 2013). Both Roger and Sarah had been bullied in the past through playing online games with others, and through daily interaction in school.
While Sarah stated that she was no longer bullied in her daily life, she did still have some problems with two women who were cyber bullies. These girls used to be her friends, and they now stalk her on social media and post ugly, inappropriate comments on things she posts or about things she posts. She has blocked them from sites that allow blocking, but they still manage to get to her through other sites. While she knows she could stop using the sites to avoid the cyber bullies, she gets enough enjoyment out of the sites, overall, to make it worth the comments she has to deal with. Still, sometimes those comments make her depressed. Mostly, they make her wonder why people have to treat others that way, and what the point of bullying someone really is, especially when people take it to the extreme. She told the researcher "I don't know why they feel the need to do that. We're all in our late 20s and early 30s now, and you'd think they would have grown up, but I guess not" (Britton, 2013). This is indicative of the fact that bullies do not have to be young children, and can come in all ages.
Roger is no longer bullied in college or online, but in middle and high school he was overweight, shy, and the target of several bullies, both online and at school. Initially, the teasing made him gain more weight. He told the researcher "I was miserable. I started to eat even more when I was depressed, because it seemed like they were going to make fun of me no matter what. I felt bad when I overate, but I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know how to cope" (Channing, 2013). Eventually, he started losing weight because he was tired of being heavy and uncomfortable. As the pounds faded away, so did the bullies. He cannot remember a specific day when it stopped, as it happened over time as he lost weight and became more outgoing. Because of their experiences being bullied, both Roger and Sarah have felt angry, been depressed, and found some resilience, as well.
However, they are all too aware of the angry and depressed times, and both say that they do not feel the resilience they have developed was worth the way they felt when they were being bullied on a daily basis. That is significant, because some people do say that being bullied a little bit can make children stronger, and that they need to learn to be tougher. While a thicker skin may be important, bullying is not the way to go about creating that . The researcher can empathize with the issues faced by Sarah and Roger, because he was also bullied all throughout his academic career. Most of the bullying was subtle, but there were more overt attacks, such as the "kick me" sign stuck to the back of his jacket by a classmate who pretended to trip and bump into him going down the stairs, or the gang of girls who made fun of his clothing…