A recent study indicates that violent video games increase aggression and aggression-related behaviors and emotions in children, and that prosocial video games have the opposite effect in children (Greitemeyer & Mugge, 2014). Researchers discovered
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[membership]these findings after reviewing 98 independent studies with 36,965 participants. The video games’ influence on social behavior was fairly small, but given the proliferation of violent video games in the marketplace, these small effects could have a sizeable influence on a population. After reviewing the results, the authors of the study determined that violent video game play should be regarded as a risk factor for aggressive behavior.
Despite the negative consequences of violent video games, the authors also found that prosocial video games led to an increase in empathy and helping behaviors in children. They even determined that the prosocial effects were slightly stronger than the effect of aggressive behavior. This is important because many violent video games still have prosocial components. For example, a game may require that villains be killed so the world can be saved, or in a multi-player game the team is likely working together to harm other game characters. Some research indicates that cooperatively playing a violent video game in a team counteracts some of the negative effects of violent video game play. (Greitemeyer, Traut-Mattausch, & Osswald, 2012) and empathy (Greitemeyer, 2013).
So what does this mean for you as a parent? We recommend you choose wisely when it comes to what video games your children are allowed to play. If you can find prosocial video games that your children enjoy, then spending reasonable amounts of time playing said game may actually provide some benefit to your children. However, even prosocial video game playing should be limited to an hour or less a day. We also suggest that if you do allow your children to play violent video games that you significantly reduce the amount of time your children spend playing them. We also recommend you choose games that facilitate group play and have a strong prosocial component. We caution all parents to significantly limit or restrict violent video games if your child already has anger management difficulties or demonstrates significant aggressive behaviors.
Studies referenced in the blog:
Greitemeyer, T. & Mugge, D. O. (2014) Video games do affect social outcomes: A meta-analytic review of the effects of violent and prosocial video game play. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 578-589.
Greitemeyer, T., Traut-Mattausch, E., & Osswald, S. (2012) How to ameliorate negative effects of violent video games on cooperation: Play it cooperatively in a team. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 1465-1470.
Greitemeyer, T. (2013). Playing video games cooperatively increases empathic concern. Social Psychology, 44, 408-413. [/membership]