ERIC Identifier: ED365477
Publication Date: 1994-01-00
Author: Cesarone, Bernard
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Video Games and Children. ERIC Digest.
Video games were first introduced in the 1970s. By the end of that decade they had become a preferred childhood leisure activity, and adults responded with concern about the possible ill effects of the games on children. Early research on these effects was inconclusive. However, a resurgence in video game sales that began in the late 1980s after the introduction of the Nintendo system has renewed interest in examining the effects of video games.
Some research suggests that playing video games may affect some children's physical functioning. Effects range from triggering epileptic seizures to causing heart rate and blood pressure changes. Serious adverse physical effects, however, are transient or limited to a small number of players. Research has also identified benefits associated with creative and prosocial uses of video games, as in physical rehabilitation and oncology (Funk, 1993). Proponents of video games suggest that they may be a friendly way of introducing children to computers, and may increase children's hand-eye coordination and attention to detail.
VIDEO GAME USE BY CHILDREN
A recent study (Funk, 1993) examined video game playing among 357 seventh and eighth grade students. The adolescents were asked to identify their preference among five categories of video games. The two most preferred categories were games that involved fantasy violence, preferred by almost 32% of subjects; and sports games, some of which contained violent subthemes, which were preferred by more than 29%. Nearly 20% of the students expressed a preference for games with a general entertainment theme, while another 17% favored games that involved human violence. Fewer than 2% of the adolescents preferred games with educational content.
The study found that approximately 36% of male students played video games at home for 1 to 2 hours per week; 29% played 3 to 6 hours; and 12 percent did not play at all. Among female students who played video games at home, approximately 42% played 1 to 2 hours and 15% played 3 to 6 hours per week. Nearly 37% of females did not play any video games. The balance of subjects played more than 6 hours per week. Results also indicated that 38% of males and 16% of females played 1 to 2 hours of video games per week in arcades; and that 53% of males and 81% of females did not play video games in arcades.
RATING VIDEO GAME VIOLENCE
The Sega company, which manufactures video games, has developed a system for rating its own games as appropriate for general, mature, or adult audiences, which it would like to see adopted by the video game industry as a whole. The Nintendo company, in rating its games, follows standards modeled on the system used by the Motion Picture Association of America.
A problem shared by those who rate violence in television and video games is that the definition of violence is necessarily subjective. Given this subjectivity, raters have attempted to assess antisocial violence more accurately by ranking violent acts according to severity, noting the context in which violent acts occur, and considering the overall message as pro- or anti-violence. However, the factor of context is typically missing in video games. There are no grey areas in the behavior of game characters, and players are rarely required to reflect or make contextual judgments (Provenzo, 1992).
EFFECTS OF VIOLENCE IN VIDEO GAMES
An early study on the effects of video games on children found that playing video games had more positive effects on children than watching television. A conference sponsored by Atari at Harvard University in 1983 presented preliminary data which failed to identify ill effects. More recent research, however, has begun to find connections between children's playing of violent video games and later aggressive behavior. A research review done by NCTV (1990) found that 9 of 12 research studies on the impact of violent video games on normal children and adolescents reported harmful effects. In general, while video game playing has not been implicated as a direct cause of severe psychopathology, research suggests that there is a short-term relationship between playing violent games and increased aggressive behavior in younger children (Funk, 1993).
Because it is likely that there is some similarity in the effect of viewing violent television programs and playing violent video games on individuals' aggressive behavior, those concerned with the effects of video games on children should take note of television research. The consensus among researchers on television violence is that there is a measurable increase of from 3% to 15% in individuals' aggressive behavior after watching violent television. A recent report of the American Psychological Association claimed that research demonstrates a correlation between viewing and aggressive behavior (Clark, 1993).
EFFECTS OF OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF VIDEO GAMES
Another problem seen by critics of video games is that the games stress autonomous action rather than cooperation. A common game scenario is that of an anonymous character performing an aggressive act against an anonymous enemy. One study (Provenzo, 1992) found that each of the top 10 Nintendo video games was based on a theme of an autonomous individual working alone against an evil force. The world of video games has little sense of community and few team players. Also, most video games do not allow play by more than one player at a time.
The social content of video games may influence children's attitudes toward gender roles. In the Nintendo games, women are usually cast as persons who are acted upon rather than as initiators of action; in extreme cases, they are depicted as victims. One study (Provenzo, 1992) found that the covers of the 47 most popular Nintendo games depicted a total of 115 male and 9 female characters; among these characters, 20 of the males struck a dominant pose while none of the females did. Thirteen of the 47 games were based on a scenario in which a woman is kidnapped or has to be rescued.
Studies have indicated that males play video games more frequently than females. Television program producers and video game manufacturers may produce violent shows and games for this audience. This demand for violence may not arise because of an innate male desire to witness violence, but because males are looking for strong role models, which they find in these shows and games (Clark, 1993).
probably not ... in the child's best interests.
Limiting playing time and monitoring game selection
according to developmental level and game content may
be as important as similar parental management of
television privileges. Parents and professionals should
also seek creative ways to increase the acceptance,
popularity, and availability of games that are
relatively prosocial, educational, and fun. (p.89)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
De Franco, E.B. (1989). Are Your Kids Too Tuned In? "PTA Today" 14(7, May): 18-19. EJ 414 201.
Funk, J.B. (1993). Reevaluating the Impact of Video Games. "Clinical Pediatrics" 32 (2, Feb): 86-90. PS 521 243.
Kubey, R. and Larson, R. (1990). The Use and Experience of the New Video Media among Children and Young Adolescents. "Communication Research" 17(1): 107-130. EJ 406 646.
National Coalition on Television Violence. (1990). Nintendo Tainted by Extreme Violence. "NCTV News" 11(1-2, Feb-Mar):1, 3-4.
Provenzo, E.F., Jr. (1992). The Video Generation. "American School Board Journal" 179(3, Mar): 29-32. EJ 441 136.