Can violent video games influence aggressive behavior in youth?


Fact Box

  • Approximately 97% of US children between the ages of 12-17 play video games [1].
  • Over half of the 50 top-selling video games contain violence [2].
  • The Center on Media and Child Health indicates that 66% of children 8-12 play video games for an average of 2 hours a day, and 56% of 13-17 year-olds play video games for an average of 2.5 hours a day [3]. 
  • Video games are only one portion of a child’s “media diet,” and are not the only source of violent content kids will see [4].
  • Kids who play violent video games have a positive aggression outlet, which may reduce their participation in real-world crime [5].
  • The Society for Media Psychology and Technology said in a 2017 policy statement, “Scant evidence has emerged that makes any causal or correlational connection between playing violent video games and actually committing violent activities” [6].

Nalda (Yes)

With an estimated 97% of US kids aged 12-17 playing video games and half of the top 50 video games containing acts of violence, it is reasonable for parents and educators to be concerned about the implications of violent video gameplay. In 2016, Krantz, Shukla, Knos, and Schouder reviewed studies on violent video gameplay and found that research has repeatedly supported the connection between violent video gameplay and aggressive thoughts and behaviors in subjects. In 2009, Olson, Kutner, Baer, Beresin, Warner, and Nicholi collected survey data from seventh and eight graders. Their research found that violent video game play was correlated with increases in bullying behavior and physical fights. 

Although there has been much criticism of the connection between violent video gameplay and “real world” aggressive behavior, a 2018 meta-analysis study conducted at Dartmouth College suggested that the premise that violent video gameplay is associated with increases in physical aggressiveness includes “real world” displays of aggression. This study reviewed the findings of 24 studies conducted throughout the world, on over 17,000 subjects who ranged in age from 9 to 19. These studies indicate that violent video gameplay can be associated with increases in “real world” aggression like hitting others and being sent to the principal’s office for fighting. These are just a few of the academic research studies that support the connection between violent video games and increased aggressive behavior in young people. [Sources: 1,2,3,4]

Tina (No)

For more than two decades, scientists have been searching for a link between video game violence and aggression. Though the general public is familiar with research that supports the notion that exposure to violent video games leads to aggressive behavior, far fewer people are privy to the studies that support the opposite. Much literature exists on both sides of the issue, including Fleming and Rickwood’s 2001 study that concluded no significant increase in aggressiveness occurred in children after playing violent video games.    

Why the disparity? Most research studies have been conducted using imprecise measurements that are skewed, misinterpreted, or just plain wrong. To counteract this, in 2007, Unsworth, Devilly, and Ward conducted a study for the Swineburg University of Technology using a more reliable measuring system. Their results concluded that being exposed to video games with violent content has no relation to aggressive temperament. In fact, the only children who showed any signs of aggression were those who showed signs before playing the game. A 2010 study by Markey and Markey supports these findings.  

In February 2019, researchers from the University of Oxford conducted a study using carefully designed methods to provide clear results on this topic. Oxford Internet Institute’s Director of Research Professor Andrew Przybylski stated that “no correlation was found between playing video games and aggressive behaviour in teenagers.”

Exposure to violent video games is not a catch-all for all the problems children experience. For many kids, they are simply a way to have fun. [Sources: 1,2,3,4]

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