The Effects of Violent Video Games on Adolescents

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The Effects of Violent Video Games on Adolescents
Kacy Romero
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Abstract
In this paper, the effects that violent video games have on adolescents will be discussed. Mentioned throughout this paper will be results from specific studies that both support and oppose the theory that violent video games increase aggression in adolescents. The theory that violent video games do encourage aggression will be the main focus, specifically supported the study conducted by Weber, Ritterfeld, and Mathiak in 2006. Evidence from their studies will be used to prove this point by discussing the physical and neurological effects of exposure to violent media. Results from other related studies will also be discussed to support this theory, such as the study done by Barlett, Branch, Rodeheffer, and Harris on the short-term effects of video games, and the study by Carnagey and Anderson, which examines the effects on adolescents of rewards and punishments of violent behavior in video games. Studies that support the opposing theory will be criticized for their vague results and lack of concrete evidence.

The Controversial Issue of Video Game Effects on Adolescents Video games have become and increasingly popular pastime since the late twentieth century among adolescents. Violence in video games tends to be very common, and it presents certain political issues. Whether or not violence in the media has an effect on teenagers has been a consistent controversial topic in modern society. Certain studies tend to show positive correlation between the aggression levels of teenagers who play violent video games, while other studies do not. Supporters of the theory that violent video games increase aggression in adolescents use results from studies that show these trends. People who disagree with this idea would say that these studies are circumstantial or simply coincidental. Although this type of research cannot be proven entirely, enough studies show that violent video game exposure increases aggression in teenagers.

Research has been done to determine a relationship between aggression and violence in adolescents. Many experiments simply provide measurements of the levels of aggressive behavior or cognition before and after playing such video games. While these studies are great examples of direct correlation, the study I find to be most convincing is that of Weber, Ritterfield, and Mathiak. In their research, they look at the different areas of the brain and note the activity present while participants are involved in video game play. Their results are intriguing and are concrete evidence as to why violence in the media has a negative impact on society. In Weber, Ritterfield, and Mathiak’s experiment, thirteen German males participated in playing the violent video game “Tactical Ops: Assault on Terror.” While playing, areas of the brain were measured with an fMRI to detect an increase in cognitive activity. They discovered that exposure to virtual violence causes an increase in variations of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, lessened activity in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, and lessened activity in the amygdala (Weber et al., 2006). Since these areas of the brain deal with emotions and feelings, this cross-sectional study represents a solid idea of what goes on in the brain during video game play. When violence was absent in the game, the activity of the amygdala could not be observed. This study supports the theory that violent media does affect a person’s cognitive activity and could potentially estimate long-term effects due to the presence of dopamine during video game play (Weber et al., 2006). The lack of activity in the amygdala during video game play tells us that there is a lack of fear. Consistent exposure could eventually lead to the absence of fear and emotion within a person. The mental emotional deficit is dangerous as it alters the brain from a general...
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