Impact of Computer Games on Child Behaviour
There has been controversy for a long time about whether video games, in particular violent video games, can affect a child’s behaviour.
Some experts believe that the effect of computer games on behaviour is likely to be greater than it is from television or videos because players actually get involved with the game and take part in it instead of simply watching it on a screen and having no control. Children don't just watch video games; they interact with them. Children’s computer games are also usually repetitive and based on a rewards system, which makes them ‘classical conditioning’ a type of learning which teaches people how to behave through rewarding and punishing certain actions and behaviour.
What is The Evidence About the Effect of Computer Games on Behaviour?
A report from 2001 looked at 35 separate studies on video game violence. There were several common conclusions, including:
Children who play violent video games experience an increase in physiological signs of aggression.
According to the authors, when children and young people play violent video games, it increases heart rate and the natural ‘stress’ hormones start to flood the brain (adrenalin, for example.) This is exactly what happens to you if you get into a real, not computer animated, fight.
Children who play violent video games experience an increase in aggressive actions.
In 2000, a study involving college students proved very interesting indeed (and quite amusing) for researchers into child behaviour and the effect of computer games on behaviour.
The study had two parts to it: a session of video-game playing, in which half the students played a violent video game and half played a non-violent video game, and then an easy reaction-time test which was designed to pit two of the students against each other in a head-to-head competition.
Whoever won the reaction-time test was allowed to punish the loser with an audio blast. Strangely, it was noted that from the students who won the reaction-time test, the people who'd been playing a violent video game before the test punished their counterparts with much longer, louder audio bursts to their opponents. So what does this mean for children's computer games?
Children's Computer Games versus Violent Games
Another recent study looked at child behaviour right at the source - and looked at the brains of children who had been playing children’s computer games and violent games to see the differences. Researchers scanned the brains of 44 children immediately after they had been playing two very different video games.
Half of the children who took part in the study were given a racing game which didn’t involve any violence at all. The other half played a game that involves shooting at people.
The brain scans of the children who had been playing the shoot ‘em up game showed an increase in activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain which stimulates emotions, and decreased activity in the prefrontal lobe, which regulates inhibition, self-control and concentration. These changes were not recorded on brain scans of the kids playing the racing game.
Draw your own conclusions and use common sense when it comes to deciding whether a children’s computer game is suitable for them, and whether you think the effect of computer games on behaviour is a big enough concern for you to consider banning a game.