The effects of video games on young people

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The effects of video games and computers on young people


What effects might video games have?


Observational learning effects

The modelling of violent actions and scenarios found in some video games, plus the reinforcement they provide for violent behaviour, has been blamed for incidents like the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.


Arousal effects

Greater interactivity/stimulation means excitation transfer effects are likely to be greater in the short term.


Disinhibition/ Desensitisation effects

The active and frequent participation in, rather than mere observation of virtual violent acts in some types of video game is thought to bring the user one step closer to committing and/or accepting real world aggression.


Cline et al (1973)

Looked at physiological responses to violence, for example increased heart rate and raised blood pressure.  They found that children who watched a lot of television with a violent content showed less physiological response when shown a violent film, suggesting that they were less sensitive than controls to what they were seeing.  

However, this was a correlational study.


Mediating factors

Individual differences are likely to be even more significant for video games given the more active role in choosing to buy and play specific games.


No effects

Already violent children may choose to play more violent games.  Children may distinguish between games and reality, and so not generalise their behaviour.


Catharsis effects

Greater interactivity and expenditure of violent energy in video games may increase cathartic effects, producing less violence in the long term.


Cognitive skills

Challenging and stimulating games could increase hand-eye co-ordination and visuo-spatial or problem-solving skills.  Brain-training games are designed to boost mental skills.


Research on the effects of video games

Giles (2003) reports that the research on the effects of video game play:


         Is even more inconclusive than is the literature on media violence in general (Griffiths (1997)

         Has found evidence that trait aggression in adults may enhance the negative effects of game play (Anderson and Dill 2000),


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