For parents of kids who love video games, concerns over the content children are interacting with has been a long-standing issue. While there are many educational options when it comes to video games, the most popular titles often include violent, first-person shooter themes. These violent video games are often blamed when children act out in aggressive ways, but a new study out of the Netherlands says that children who play violent video games do not become more aggressive as a result.
In the early 2000’s, researchers believed that children who played violent video games would become more violent themselves from exposure to what they were seeing on screen. Since then, studies have attempted to prove this link with little success. With the new study from the Netherlands, a place with one of the highest per-capita rates of video game consumption, findings point towards little to no impact on outward aggression.
The study looked at 194 children around the age of nine who played video games. Taking place over the span of one year, the children and their parents were surveyed about the child’s gaming habits at the beginning and the end of the year, noting the child’s level of aggression at both points. The study found that overall, gaming is not related to mental health issues, antisocial traits or increased aggression.
There was a small correlation between depression and frequent video game use, although it could be argued that children who are depressed spend more time alone and fill their hours with video games, noting, “As a means of escape, gaming may offer temporary distraction, but without alleviating real world distress, excessive gaming may only exacerbate said problems.” So for kids who are playing video games constantly and showing signs of depression, parental intervention is likely needed.
The researchers noted that in the past, studies have looked at finding links between frequency of video game use with antisocial behaviors, depression, and inability to focus. They also note that most of the inferences from the studies have been correlational and not taken into account socioeconomic backgrounds and gender.
Around 2012, researchers began studying the positive effects of video games, including viewing video games as a way to train the mind to be sharper and better at problem-solving. In the new study from the Netherlands, the researchers noted that as video games become more sophisticated, effects on young players become more positive. “Moreover, video games have become—particularly in the past decade—a more social and emotionally rich entertainment medium. Thus, modern video games may provide a context for children to bond with others and learn the benefits of cooperation,” write the researchers in the study.
Good news for worried parents,.