Do Violent Games Desensitise Children To Violence?

By: Victor Epand

Over recent years there have been many arguments proposed by those who are not in favour of computer games or video games, or have concerns about either the amount of time spent playing such games, or the nature of the images and scenes watched by those playing them. One of the common arguments put forward is that computer and video games , through the nature of violence and graphic horror, are desensitizing children to violence and horror in the real world. There argument is that by watching vivid and repeated images on the screen of violence, aggression, killing and other physical attacking, the children or young people playing the games will start to accept this level of violence, or way of interacting with those around you, and in the real world, be more likely to be aggressive, or produce an aggressive or violent response to a given stimuli.

This argument, however popular it may be, is deeply flawed, and in truth holds no water at all. There have been many studies that have demonstrated that there has never been, and is not today, any measurable correlation between the amount of video gaming a person plays and any violent characteristics in the real world.

One explanation for why this may be the case can be found not in humans, but in a wide variety of other animals - in particular apes and other primates. These primates will frequently take part in what we call play fighting. To an outsider it can look and sound quite frightening, with expectations of blood, injury or even death. However, what the observer will also notice is that once the fight is over, both parties happily walk away completely uninjured and none the worse for wear. More than likely they'll be related or good friends within the family or group. This is quite different to genuine fighting, for perhaps defence against an intruding group, or a fight for leadership, when injuries might be suffered. These primates know the difference between play fighting and real fighting, and no matter how active it may appear, they both know and follow the rules of play fighting within that environment.

Children follow the same behavioural paths as primates, in as much as they know and understand the difference between fighting and aggression on screen, within a play environment, and such behaviour in the real world. In particular, primates and humans (some would argue that they're the same thing!) are very good at being able to catalogue and separate behaviours in this way, and that no matter how aggressive a child may be in game, they understand that it is just a game, and mentally apply a different set of rules.

This ability is almost certainly hereditary, since if our ancestors, primates, didn't have the ability to understand the difference between play fighting and real fighting, the chances that we would have evolved this far is somewhat unlikely.

Gaming
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Gaming
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles