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The Negative Effects of Violent Computer Games on Children

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    Computer games have a negative impact on the development of children, especially contributing to aggressive and anti-social behaviour. Playing computer games has a greater negative effect because it involves interactivity which impacts on learning processes of the child. Numerous studies around the effects of violence in television, movies and video games on children have taken place over the last twenty years. The outcomes of various studies have shown that there is a negative effect of consuming violent media.

    When it comes to computer games, however, research by Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson, indicates that violent computer games have an even stronger effect on children’s behaviour because of its interactivity. The General Aggression Model (GAM) has been developed to integrate recent findings in aggression theory and research with earlier models. In this model, the performance of aggression is based on learning, activation and application of aggression-related knowledge stored in memory. It suggests that violent media causes short-term increases in aggression.

    Various studies were performed to prove this statement, involving exposing young adults to violent computer games, and testing their reaction to stimuli. The result was a quantifiable impact on the individual’s ‘internal’ state, the conclusion being that “violent media increases aggressive cognition (including previously learned aggressive scripts and aggressive perceptual schemata), by increasing arousal, or by creating an aggressive affective state. ” The long term effects involve learning processes.

    The model puts forward the idea that each encounter with violent media, is essentially one more learning trial, since knowledge structures are built on how humans perceive, interpret, judge and respond to events based on interactions in the real (in the family or at school) or perceived (the media) world. As stated earlier, the impact of computer games are especially influential since: the games are highly engaging, children are rewarded by violent behaviour, and children repeat this behaviour over and over as they play.

    Psychologists know that these three methods (active involvement, rewarding, and repeating) improve learning. Link this to a psychological term called ‘social learning’, where a child learns by watching or imitating others, as opposed to his/her own experience, and we have a process where a child’s behaviour is negatively influenced by the aggressive, violent nature of computer games. Now take into account the fact that, according to a study by DeGaetano and Bander, computer games send the following false messages to players:

    Problems can be solved quickly and with little personal investment. The best way to solve a problem is to eliminate the source of the problem, Problems are clear-cut: right or wrong, black or white, Use instinctual rather than thoughtful problem solving, Personal imagination is not necessary for problem solving, and we see that the impact is far reaching, not only in terms of reaction to stimuli, but also through the absorption of morals and ethics, and approaches to problem-solving. Furthermore, it is argued that playing computer games reduces ‘prosocial’ behaviour and sensitivity.

    Olivier discusses the process whereby players adjust their emotional reactions to acts of violence on the ‘real’ world, based on the internalisation of violence present in the computer games they play. On a chemical/biological level – studies in brain science show that children’s experiences during their brain’s growth spurts have a greater impact on their brain’s wiring than at any other time of their lives.

    This has also been proven to continue during adolescence. The latest brain research shows that violent games activate the anger centre of the teenage brain while dampening the brain’s ‘conscience’. And on a physical level – playing computer games are said to negatively affect the health of players. Research has documented the negative effects of computer games as including obesity and postural, muscular and skeletal disorders. So, computer games have far-reaching negative effects, and these are heightened by its interactive nature.

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