Violent Video Games Affect Kids' Ability to Sympathize With Others, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News, Media, Video Games

violent video games

Children who play violent video games have weakened abilities to develop empathy and sympathy for others, a new study says. Credit: AP

You know how it is. You kill enough people and, eventually, you're not such a nice guy anymore.

This apparently is true even if you're just splattering people's innards across a computer screen for fun and games.

Researchers at Simmons College in Boston found that children who play violent video games eventually weaken their ability to develop empathy and sympathy for others.

So, does that mean one minute your 15-year-old son is playing "Call of Duty" and the next he's picking off people from a tower with a high-powered rifle?

Communications professor Edward Vieira, who led the study with Wake Forest University communications professor Marina Krcmar, says there's no reason to go that far.

"Certainly, not every child who continues to play violent video games is going to go out and perpetrate a violent act, but the research suggests that children -- particularly boys -- who are frequently exposed to these violent games are absorbing a sanitized message of 'no consequences for violence' from this play behavior," Vieira says in a university press release.

Researchers looked at kids ages 7 to 15. The team found kids who routinely play violent video games come to regard some form of violence as acceptable, even "right," and generally have an indifferent attitude toward all kinds of violence.

"The concern arises when children are taking in this message and there is a convergence of other negative environmental factors at the same time, such as poor parental communication and unhealthy peer relationships," Vieria adds.

Boys are particularly at risk, Vieira says in the release, as they play violent video games twice as much as girls.

What violent video games lack, Vieira says, is the perspective of the victim.

In "Call of Duty: World at War," you go about chopping up German soldiers like they're hamburger meat. The game makes this easy because the victims are supposedly Nazis. What players fail to get is the perspective of an 18-year-old German draftee caught up in Adolf Hitler's war machine.

Vieira argues moral reasoning is the result of being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Or boots.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.