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Facts & Myths About Violent Games

This article informs caregivers about violent games and their possible effects on children.
What is a “violent” video game?

Violent video games are popular between adults and children. They are easily obtained regardless of the age. We note that what constitutes a “violent video game” is often vague and broad that even games such as Pac Man could be considered as one of those games.

Video games differ from TV and movies primarily by being interactive rather than something that one passively watches. In my definition, from my experience, “violent video games” are those that represent violence as the best or only way to resolve a conflict. However, The California law defines “violent video game” in 150 words as, in part, “the range of options available to a player in a video game that includes killing, injuring, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.” 

Do violent video games contribute to an aggressive behavior?

There is no easy answer for this; the interactive nature of violent video games leads to a violent behavior, at least for the adolescents who are already predisposed to this act or for those who may have difficulty separating fantasy from reality. The link between violent video games exposure and aggressive behavior is one of the most studied and best established.

Some studies have implied that video games are easily divided into 2 categories: “violent” and “prosocial” which are also divided into “antisocial and prosocial games that are considered appropriate for children”. However, nowadays many games include both violent and prosocial content.

On the other side, many studies have failed to find a clear connection between the effect of violent games and the belligerent behavior, and the controversy over whether the aggressive behavior transfers to real life has persisted for many years.

Many analyses found that kids who played these games become more aggressive over time. But the changes in a behavior were not big according to the traditional ways of looking at these numbers; itis not a large effect, yet I would say it is relatively small.

We should be mindful that digital violence is a one risk factor for aggression; it is not the biggest, nor the smallest, but it is worth paying attention to.

So why these games are created?  

Simple! To satisfy a demand or a need.

Millions of players love to kill, slash and slaughter. While this desire might be considered unpleasant, it can also be understood as part of our aggression and darker desires in a safe digital world where nobody dies forever, and you can always reincarnate. Violence is often the central mechanic of progress and reward in games, which demonstrates a striking lack of imagination.

Some Myths and Facts for you to read and be aware of that will help you understand the effects of violent games on children
  • Myth 1: Violent video game research has yielded very mixed results.
    Fact: Some studies have yielded insignificant video game effects. However, violent video games are significantly associated with increased aggressive behavior, thoughts and affect; increased physiological arousal and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior. 
  • Myth 2: There are no studies linking violent video game to serious aggression.
    Fact: High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to minor crime, fighting at school and other related topics.
  • Myth 3: Unrealistic video game violence is completely safe for adolescents and older youths.
    Fact: Digital violence is often perceived (incorrectly) by parents as safe even for children. However, studies have found that being exposed to these games increases the aggression level.
  • Myth 4: The effects of violent video games are trivially small.
    Fact: Many youths are exposed to high levels of video game violence, which increases social isolation.
  • Myth 5: If violent video games cause an increase in aggression, then violent crime rates in the U.S. would be increasing instead of decreasing.
    Fact: Violent video games are only one of many factors that contribute to societal violence.

Children exposed to violent video games may become numb to violence, imitate the violence and show more aggressive behavior. Younger children and those with emotional behavioral or learning problems may be more influenced by violent images.

There are concerns about the effect of video games on young people who play excessively. Therefore, we should monitor our children while playing and pay attention to the behavior they reflect from the digital world.

The impact is shown on three levels:
On the Personality level:

The three traits identified were high neuroticism (prone to anger and depression, highly emotional and easily upset), disagreeableness (cold and indifferent to other people) and low level of conscientiousness (prone to acting without thinking, failing to deliver on promises and breaking rules).

On the Situation Level:

Certain situations increase the exposure to violent video games, such as locating game consoles and computers in the children's bedrooms and allowing their older siblings to share games with them. Children who played video games often with older siblings were twice as likely as other children to play mature-rated games.

On the Motivation Level:

Video games and other online activities have become so appearing among young people that they have altered how young people socialize and learn.

Also, spending excessive time playing these games can lead to:
  • Less time socializing with friends and family & poor social skills.
  • Lower grades.
  • Less reading.
  • Less exercise and becoming overweight.
  • Anxiety and poor-quality sleep.
  • Aggressive thoughts and behaviors.
  • In moderation, playing age-appropriate games can be enjoyable and healthy. Some video games may promote learning and problem solving and help with the development of fine motor skills and coordination.
How should parents monitor their children concerning video games?

Teens often spend more time in playing than younger children. Nowadays, Video games have become very sophisticated and realistic; some could be connected to the internet and allow communication and interaction between people online.

Store-bought video games are evaluated by the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and rated for their appropriateness for children and teens. The ratings are featured prominently on the game packaging.

Children and adolescents can become overly involved with video games. They may have difficulties controlling the amount of time they play. They may resist their parents’ attempts to limit their time playing video games.

Parents can help their children to play appropriately and avoid problems by:
  • Avoiding video games for preschool-aged children.
  • Checking the ESRB ratings to select appropriate games in terms of both content and level of development.
  • Playing video games with their children to share the experience and discuss the game’s content.
  • Setting clear rules of the game’s content and playing time both in and outside the house.
  • Monitoring online interactions and warning children about the potential dangers of internet contacts.
  • Enforcing total screen time limits.
  • Ensuring video games are only played after homework and chores are done.
  • Encouraging participation in other activities, particularly physical activities.

If you continue to have concerns about your child’s gaming habits or if your child is having difficulty with mood or behavior, ask your child’s pediatrician or school counselor to help arrange a referral to a trained and qualified mental health professional.  


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Call to Action

Ensure to monitor your children in terms of video games.