Violent Video Games Can Spur Child Aggression, AAP Says

(Photo: Pawel Kadysz, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pawel Kadysz, Creative Commons)

The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a new policy statement concerning the “immersive and inescapable” manner in which kids and teens are exposed to violence via social media apps, movies, television shows, and video games. The academy says that this exposure can make children more aggressive and fearful.

The advice was published in the online issue of the journal Pediatrics:

“We’ve switched from calling it screen aggression or screen violence to virtual violence to capture the more immersive ways children can experience media violence today,” said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the principal author.

Christakis adds that soon we will have virtual reality violent video games. The experience will be even more intense, and the recommendations he and his team are making will become even more important, reports the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The amount of screen time logged by children has been at the center of the conversation surrounding kids’ media habits. Limits are necessary, but doctors say parents should be concentrating on the quality of what their children are viewing. Parents also need to know that there are risks involved in not monitoring young people’s media use.

“Your child might be at greater risk than others, particularly when parents see aggressive tendencies in their children, they should make very concerted efforts to reduce the violence in their child’s media diet.”

Aggression, says the team, can be defined as an intention to harm someone psychologically or physically. In young people it can also present as rudeness, arguing, or driving aggressively. Violence, adds the team, is aggression with the goal of administering extreme harm, including injury or death.

The scientists recommend that parents become mindful of their children’s media consumption and keep children under the age of six away from virtual violence. Lawmakers should consider legislation to ban easy access to violent content for kids under 18. Ratings for such games should be clear and understandable.

The group advises that pediatricians collaborate with the entertainment industry to direct violence away from being a game’s central theme. Likewise, the entertainment industry should stop glamorizing guns and violence, and should eliminate gratuitous violence and language that is misogynistic or homophobic, they say.

Even the evening news on television can be traumatic for kids at any age. News coverage of violent events such as the Bastille Day massacre can bring about aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, and aggressive behavior in youngsters writes CNN Wire. In the wake of such grotesque incidents, it is not unusual to see nightmares, increased general anxiety, and sleep disturbances in kids.

Children need reassurance if they hear or see any part of the reporting on such horrific events. Christakis says parents should tell their children that most people are good and should share with their young ones stories of people helping each other.

The team’s advice was based on their review and summarization of over a dozen studies concerning the impacts of virtual violence and aggression on the attitudes and behaviors of children.

Amy Norton of HealthDay writes that for those media violence experts who contend that such a link has not been proven, Christakis notes that physical brutality among children is, in fact, rare. But he adds that “aggressive thoughts and feelings do precede violence.” Christakis continued by saying:

“The news can make the world seem like a very scary place. With young children, it’s better that they not see it all. With older kids, talk about what’s happening.”