The debate over violent video games has been ongoing since 1976 with the release of Death Race. Game players drove their car over screaming "gremlins" turning them to tombstones. The stick figure "gremlins" closely resembled humans. That, coupled with information that the game was created using the name Pedestrian, caused many people alarm. Production of the game discontinued, when protestors went so far as to drag the games from arcades and burn them in the parking lots, but the debate raged on.
The conversation remains heated to this day with games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. What are the effects that these types of violent video games have on our children?
According to the American Medical Association
A 2014 peer-reviewed study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that habitual violent video game playing had a causal link with increased, long-term, aggressive behavior.
However, on the other hand:
A peer-reviewed study completed in August 2014, "Violent Video Games and Real-World Violence: Rhetoric Verses Data, found that: "Annual trends in video sales for the past 33 years were unrelated to violent crime... Monthly sales of video games were related to concurrent decreases in aggravated assaults."
What Pediatricians and Parents Think
90% of pediatricians and 67% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior in children.
What the Courts Think
In Brown v The Entertainment Merchants Association (2011) the US Supreme Court ruled that California could not ban the sale of violent video games to minors. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that studies "do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively."
So Who is Right?
The statistics mount on both sides, putting the favorable spin on the numbers that leave the ball in their court. The final (arguable) consensus? Compared to the millions of child and teen gamers, in the United states alone, the number of children and teens that act out in violence as a result of video games is a very slim margin.
But, can we leave a margin at all? Violence begets violence. There is no denying that our society is suffering a decline in morality and an increase in violence. There are many contributing factors to that fact, but we can not discount the glorified violence of video games as being one of them.
The Effects of Violent Televsion
Let's not forget violence in movies and television. The American Academy of Childhood & Adolescent Psychiatry reported that the typical American child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders, by the age of 18. These statistics alone can open up a very serious debate.
Yes, the world contains violence, but to let it grow more prominent while we debate the particulars is never going to solve the problem. Love and compassion are two of our most important human qualities. Let's not lose sight of that. Perhaps it's time we put debating aside and just talk to our children from the heart in order to teach them right from wrong.