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Exploring the Impacts of Video Game Use

According+to+the+American+Psychological+Association%2C+more+than+90%25+of+children+from+the+ages+of+2+to+17+play+video+games.+Photo+by+Shane+K.+via+Wikimedia+Commons.
According to the American Psychological Association, more than 90% of children from the ages of 2 to 17 play video games. Photo by Shane K. via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the American Psychological Association, more than 90% of children from the ages of 2 to 17 play video games. Photo by Shane K. via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the American Psychological Association, more than 90% of children from the ages of 2 to 17 play video games. Photo by Shane K. via Wikimedia Commons.

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Video games have become a staple of childhood and adolescent entertainment. According to the American Psychological Association, more than 90% of children from the ages of 2 to 17 play video games.

Freshman Zach Harf estimates that he spends about 10 hours a week playing video games.

“Sometimes, when I don’t feel like doing homework and I want to escape somewhere else, I feel like video games are [an escape to] a world that I enjoy rather than actually doing the homework,” he said.

In order to examine the video game habits of BHS students, the Beachcomber anonymously surveyed 100 students. Our survey found that 78 of the 100 respondents play video games on some sort of gaming platform.

Can Violent Video Games Cause Violence?

In spite of their prevalence, video games have remained controversial due to one subcategory: violent video games.

Despite these games being rated for only ages 17 and up by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) , adolescents are still able to obtain these games with their parents’ permission.

Some believe that excessive use of violent video games may lead to detrimental effects. In 2014, Grand Theft Auto 5 was pulled from shelves in Australia after a change.org petition gained more than 40,000 signatures.

Critics argue that violent video games inspire young people to reenact their virtual actions in real life. The most notable example was in July of this year when an 18 year old gunman killed 9 people Munich, Germany. The teenager actively played first-person shooters.

The even more devastating Columbine shooters were found to be active players of games such as the original Doom and Grand Theft Auto.

But it is not clear that playing violent video games is the cause of violent behavior, or if both are symptoms of a violent personality.

Craig A. Anderson of the department of Psychology at Iowa State University along with colleagues from Japanese and American Universities conducted an experiment in 2008 to try to figure out if violent video games lead to violent behavior.

The test involved 1,595 children and young adults who played violent video games. These subjects were assessed for physical aggression after three and six month periods. The test concluded that the prepubescents in the study showed a relatively small increase in aggressive tendencies.

However, according to a study in 2015 by Whitney Decamp, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Western Michigan University, video games don’t predict violent behavior. He examined data from the 2008 Delaware School Survey concerning whether students have played violent video games in the past while at the same time accounting for factors such as age and gender.

The survey included responses from 6,567 eighth-graders and found that the students did not predict an dramatic increase in violent behavior as a direct result of violent video games.

BHS school psychologist Kevin Kemelhar argues that violent video games are not the cause of violent behavior.

“Some kids just have a tendency for violence,” Kemelhar said. “Playing a video game shouldn’t cause any more violence than a kid already has.”

Kemelhar went on to state that he hasn’t seen an increase in violence in children as a result of violent video games. In his view, kids who become violent are predisposed to violence with or without the influence of the game.

Of the 60 students who indicated on the Beachcomber survey that they play violent video games, only 3%, or 2 people, feel that violent video games make them more aggressive. Furthermore, about 27%, or 16, of the violent video game players answered that playing these violent video games are stress relieving for them.”

Freshman Tyler Stovsky agrees.

“With all the hours I’ve played in these video games, I don’t really feel violent in any way,” he said.

Michael R. Ward of the University of Texas at Arlington found a negative correlation between video games and adolescent crime rates in his 2010 study. Ward studied trends during the time period when a popular video game was released and the number of teen crimes and homicides committed.

Ward discovered that when a new game is released, the number of teen-committed crimes decreases significantly. Ward credits video games in the sense that they can be used as a way to release aggression and anger while playing a game instead of in real life.

The Beachcomber survey also found evidence against violent video games causing violent behavior.

Of the 60 students who answered that they play violent video games, only 3%, or 2 people, feel that violent video games make them more aggressive. Furthermore, about 27%, or 16, of the violent video game players answered that playing these violent video games are stress relieving for them.

The Beachcomber survey suggests that violent video games only cause a relative increase in aggression in a miniscule number of students. Also, for some individuals, violent video games can even be positive in the sense that they actually release aggression in some people instead of creating it.

Other Effects of Videogame Use

Another question is whether video games lead to antisocial behavior in adolescents. Furthermore, some have argued that excessive use of video games could  increase depression and negatively affect students’ grades.

Our Beachcomber survey revealed that 12%, or 9 of those who play video games answered that their grades are negatively affected as a result of playing video games.

Robert Weis and Brittany C. Cerankosky of Denison University conducted a study to see if video games would negatively affect students’ grades. One group of students received a video game console at the beginning of the study, and another group of students did not receive a console until the end of the study.

It should, however, be noted that the students in this study were given as much time as they wanted to spend playing video games, which could lead to skewed results since most teens have limits imposed by their parents.

The study found that students who received a gaming console right away would spend less time on homework, resulting in lower grades on standardized tests for reading and decreased writing performance four months later.

Video games are no different than exercise or reading in the sense that we have to keep track of how much time we are spending.”

— School psychologist Kevin Kemelhar

Another study by Karen Cummings of the University of Michigan and Elizabeth Vandewater of the University of Texas in 2007 also found negative results when adolescents played video games regularly. The study involved 1,493 children using time-diaries to determine their time spent playing video games compared to their time engaging in other activities. It should also be noted that the students in this study were also given as much time as they wanted to spend playing video games.

The study found that students who played video games for more than an hour a day spent 30% less time reading and 34% less time doing homework compared to non-gamers.

However, Kemelhar is not so quick to blame video games, stating that any type of leisure activity can cause an adolescent to complete less school work, which in turn negatively affects their grades.

“If a kid is going out to play six hours of basketball after school, they’re not going to have time for their grades; same with video games,” Kemelhar said. “It has to be an appropriate time frame.”

Kemelhar also defends video games against the charge that they cause antisocial behavior.

“[Playing video games] doesn’t necessarily lead to antisocial behavior, but it can lead to isolation,” Kemelhar said. “Antisocial behavior is purposeful; isolation is just the fact you’re not around other people.”

Isolation, he says, is not unique to video gamers.

“Some kids spend hours reading, which causes them to isolate themselves, but it doesn’t get a bad rep,” he said.

Kemelhar emphasized that time spent playing video games, like any other activity, needs to be managed effectively.

“I think time management is huge,” he said. “Video games are no different than exercise or reading in the sense that we have to keep track of how much time we are spending.”

“Video games all the time distract me from school,” Stovsky said. “I usually have a set time that I will go and do my homework but I usually go past that time and play longer than I plan to.”

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Exploring the Impacts of Video Game Use