This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

April 13, 2011

Far-Reaching Effects of Video Gaming

Empathy is one of those character traits parents hope they foster in their children. Thatís why a new study published in the "Journal of Children and Media" is so troubling. Simmons College communications professor Edward Vieira, Jr., PhD has confirmed, what many parents have long suspected---that children's prolonged exposure to violent video games can affect their ability to develop empathy and sympathy.

Vieira's is the first study to examine how violent video games have an impact on the development of moral reasoning in children ages 7 to 15. Considering many variables, including age, gender, and the ability to sympathize, the research suggests that children who frequently play these violent games are receiving the negative messages. These messages tell them there are "no consequences for violence". The concern arises when there is a convergence between the receipt of these messages and other negative environmental factors, like poor parental communication and unhealthy peer relationships.

It is not surprising that the study found that frequent exposure to this viciousness contributes to children's perceptions that some types of violence are "acceptable" or "right". Moreover, the study found that children who spend a lot of time playing violent video games (defined by the Entertainment Software Rating Board) have an increased likelihood of accepting all types of violence. Twenty-five percent of the video games played contained "intense violence, blood, and gore".

The study confirmed that boys spend twice as much time playing violent video games as girls do; it also highlighted the increased risk boys face of becoming desensitized. Additionally, the study found that although a high percentage of children polled ranged in ages from 7 to 12, many reported playing games rated "M" for "Mature content"*, games designated for ages 17 and older.

The temptation for parents to share video activities with their children or use violent video games as babysitters may have serious consequences for both the family and society. With the Columbine Shootings a fading memory, more studies will highlight this correlation between violent video gaming and increased aggression. This understanding will lead to increased attention by parents and government to this critical societal issue.

* Mature content games contain intense violence, blood, gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.


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