As a result of their widespread popularity, over the past couple of decades, video games became a significant aspect of New Media Communications. Video games, as time goes on, are becoming more advanced and even more addicting. In particular, violent video games are a huge problem today because of the minors that play them. One thought is that minors are more violent and due to the influence of video games. That being said, a way to combat these harmful behaviors is for parents to hold responsibility for the content their children consume. This paper will explore how video games affect minors and how parents can manage a minor's violent video gameplay.
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In today's American society, children and adolescents spend a large amount of time playing video games. Whether a form of socialization, relaxation or a fun pastime, minors enjoy playing video games. The capabilities of the gaming industry are incredibly sophisticated as time and technology advances (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.70). Part of these capabilities includes better graphics, but also content with increasingly realistic violence and acts of immorality. As violent video games rose in popularity, the United States Congress sought out a self-regulating rating system for games by 1994. Because of this, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, or ESRB, formed to encourage the disuse of young children playing violent video games (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.70). A few of the ratings are as followed: "E" games are appropriate for everyone, That being said, despite the ESRB ratings for video games, parents are often uninformed or do not follow the set guidelines. Violent video games are becoming a severe issue because younger children are playing them (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.71). Over the past 35 years, numerous scientists and scholars have expressed concerns related to the adverse effects of violent images (Gabbiadini & Riva, 2018, p.113). Because of their developmental stage, researchers claim that video games pose a more significant effect on the adolescent age range. Effects that have played a role in violent video games include aggressive behavior, social/antisocial behavior, verbal aggression, decreased empathy feelings, and many others (Gabbiadini & Riva, 2018, p.114). Violent video games play an integral role in negative behaviors in minors and should be a parent's role to enlist appropriate games.
Violent video games can cause behavioral issues in minors that can lead to different behavior changes. The first behavior change that minors can be affected by is aggressive behavior. Aggression is a "behavior intended to harm another person who has the motivation to avoid harm" (Ivory & Kaestle, 2013). Video games, in general, have become more of a focus over other screen media as a result of concerning relative to other screen media due to the realism and immersive nature of violent acts, which links to increased aggression (McGloin, Farrar, & Fishlock, 2015). Technology has become more advanced in regards to consoles and controllers because there is a simulation of realism that can lead to aggressive behavior in minors (McGloin, Farrar, & Fishlock, 2015). Parents are exposing their kids to violent video games and are clueless about what their children are playing. Aggressive behavior has a basis on gender, the situation or environment, or the amount of violence presented(Verheijen, Burk, Stoltz, Van den Berg, & Cillessen, 2017). As aggressive behavior becomes more prominent in children and adolescents, often, this results from exposure to violent video game images, which eventually be long-term (Verheijen et al., 2017).
According to Neuroscientists and psychologists, the image of the human mind is a network of nodes and links (Yang, Huesmann, & Bushman, 2014). In this instance, concepts in the minds are the representative of nodes; the associations between concepts are the links. Thus, after playing a violent video game, minors may experience an activation of aggressive behaviors (Yang, Huesmann, & Bushman, 2014). When minors start to become more mature, the parental guide decreases as they become more independent, which can influence aggressive behavior even more (Verheijen et al., 2017). When minors play violent video games, the influence of aggression is more prominent than merely watching a graph television program. An example of this learning occurs through optional objectives that the gamer can do to get a better reward in the game. In a violent video game, the gamer receives awards for acting aggressively in the game (McGloin, Farrar, & Fishlock, 2015).
Another effect of minors playing brutal video games is verbal aggression. Minors are usually at a state where they are still maturing through life, which means they still have much to learn right from wrong. Minors tend to repeat what they hear, which, when ingesting violent images from games, can lead to a severe problem (Ivory & Kaestle, 2013). Part of violence in video games, is the repeated profanity or vulgar speech, thus leading to their use by young players. A prime example of a popular video game franchise that includes violence and crimefilled narratives is Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto (Ivory & Kaestle, 2013). To date, the series has ten game releases and other supplemental content releases.
Along with the violence and crime, games like Grand Theft Auto contain profanity throughout character dialogue (Ivory & Kaestle, 2013). The term "profanity" often refers to a verbal form of aggression —particularly curse or obscene words (Ivory & Kaestle, 2013). Verbal behavior with profanity does show the player's use of verbal aggression. However, some research has yet to study profanity effects on minors when it comes to electronic games (Ivory & Kaestle, 2013).
Not only do video games lead to verbal aggression, but other negative actions occur as well. Violent video games also affect minors' social behavior. One report suggests that teenagers can spend an average of 8.9 hours weekly playing electronic games (Gabbiadini & Riva, 2018, p.114). One reason an individual may spend extended periods playing brutal video games is social exclusion (Gabbiadini & Riva, 2018, p.114). According to Gabbiadini & Riva (2018), social exclusion is "the experience of being kept away from others physically or emotionally." While aggression and violent image exposure are directly linked, the reason for wanting to play may be related to social exclusion. This social exclusion, in turn, make minors more inclined to exhibit aggressive behaviors (Gabbiadini & Riva, 2018, p.114) Two metaanalyses found that modern violent games, in particular, aggressive behavior is just one of the concerns. The findings show that beyond aggression, modern violent games also promote immoral and sexist conduct (Gabbiadini & Riva, 2018, p.114).
While video games can isolate someone physically, gaming helps gamers meet others online. Playing video games online have played a role when making friendships online, especially for males, 42% play with their real friends regularly, but 34% made their friends while playing a video game (Verheijnen et al., 2017). These online relationships can contribute to negative social behavior through peer pressure to perform inappropriate in-game behavior (Verheijen et al., 2017 ). This behavior for minors could take place through a training called deviancy training (Verheijen et al., 2017). "This is a process in which peers reinforce each others' antisocial attitudes and behavior through positive affective behavior, such as laughing" (Verhejien et al., 2017). The social behavior through encouraging this type of behavior can increase aggressive behavior long-term, inside and outside of the gaming world (Verheijen et al., 2017).
While minors are the topic of discussion, parents play an integral role when allowing violent media exposure. As children grow into adolescence, so does their independence. While parents allow freedom in some areas, there needs to be better accountability concerning violent games. A way for parents to monitor the exposure to violence is through researching a game's rating. By 1994, a self-regulatory system for video games formed as a result of pressure from the U.S. Congress. With a regulatory system, the hope was to decrease violent video game exposure to young minors. As a result, the trade association called Entertainment Software Association (ESA) created the Entertainment Software Rating Board or ESRB (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.71). This board's rating system provides parents an age-appropriate scale based on general game content. The ESRB system lets parents know what is in the violent video game, such as sexually explicit content, violence, and vulgarity (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.71).
The strict guidelines set by the ESRB are beneficial for parents in order to restrict ageinappropriate content from minors (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.71). The guidelines proposed as a rating scale: "E" is for everyone, "E10+" is for ten-years-old and up, "T" for teenagers, "M" for mature gamers, and "AO" for adults (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.71). Some studies have shown that the ESRB system, particularly age-inappropriate games, increases the appeal to children and adolescents. Some parents base off their minor playing a video game content based instead of age-based (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.71). Parents have a responsibility to withhold exposure to inappropriate games for children and minors. That being said, despite a regulated rating system in place, parents differ in how they assess the effects of exposure for their minor (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.71). Reports show that levels when violent video games increase, parents report children getting into trouble at school more often. Getting in trouble at school for these children includes even physically fighting with other classmates. This instance shows that parental guidances and rules that are lax in terms of violent games contribute to negative behavior at school in the minors that play them (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.77). In contrast, the use of ESRB by parents may result in less aggressive behavior, or positive outcomes in children, which transfers, again, to the classroom and even result in improved academic achievement (Lackzniak, Carlson, & Brocato, 2017, p.78).
As discussed, an aspect of New Communications media is how video games are a significant contributor to entertainment, particularly among children and adolescents. As technology and graphics in the games increase, so do the realism of violent images. Along with these images, more and more minors are among regular gamers. As a result, violent image exposure in games, a minor experiences a multitude of adverse behaviors. For one, aggressive behaviors can result from the influence of violent electronic games. This behavior is exhibited in schools and can be physical towards other classmates. Games like Grand Theft Auto, exhibit both physical and verbal aggressiveness like profanity. When exposed to such constant profanity, minors tend to pick up and use these words more frequently. The paper also looked at social behavior, which shows those isolated are more likely to seek out violent games. Finally, parents play an essential role in guiding children's media exposure. While the focus of the paper was on the negatives associated with violent media and minors, the research goes to show the positives of parental involvement as well. From personal experience, there are consistently minors playing video games. As time progresses, gamers become younger and younger. These minors are not mature enough to handle such content meant for adults, but it is sad because their parents sometimes do not care what they play.
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