Are Violent Video Games Harmful?

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Objective: The aim of this paper is to revisit the controversial issue of the association of violent video games and aggressive behaviour. Conclusions: Several lines of evidence suggest that there is a link between exposure to violent video games and aggressive behaviour. However, methodological shortcomings of research conducted so far make several interpretations of this relationship possible. Thus, aggressive behaviour may be a consequence of playing violent video games, an expression of hostile traits that existed before exposure to these games, and/or it may be a result of several possible combinations of these and other factors. Mental health professionals need to be aware of these potentially negative effects of violent video games when assessing patients who present with aggression. There is a need for prospective, long-term studies similar to those evaluating the effects of television and film violence on children and adolescents.

Key words: aggression, computer, trait-hostility, video game. Video games are being increasingly used around the world, mainly by children, adolescents and young adults. Violent video games have raised concerns, particularly from the media, certain regulatory bodies and mental health professionals. This is underpinned by case reports and studies suggesting that there may be a relationship between the use of violent video games and subsequent aggressive or antisocial behaviour.1 A related issue is that of the excessive, ‘addictive’ use of video games and the internet.

The purpose of this paper is to overview the development of violent video games and re-examine the controversial issue of an adverse impact of these games on behaviour and on mental health in general. Understanding this impact better might contribute to efforts to decrease violence in modern society, reduce potentially harmful effects of the violent video games, and improve mental health.
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