Are children more likely to commit a crime if they play violent video games?
The problem of violent video games has been hotly debated for decades now, but with each new generation of children parents go back to the same question – is this type of entertainment putting my child at risk for developing antisocial behaviour? Will he grow up to become a criminal?
Let’s see what research has to say on this contended topic.
Is there a link between videogames and violent behaviour?
Most of the studies claiming there’s a link between exposure to the violence in many video games and increased aggressiveness and impulsivity in the youngsters who play them date from the 1980s. At the time, video games were fairly new and most adults didn’t really understand what kids saw in them. Also, most of the studies came from the US, a very conservative country at the time. The political elite was quick to proclaim that this new type of entertainment will push children into crime. Other countries, including Australia, followed suit.
However, in the time since then many other studies came to the conclusion that there is no such link between video games and antisocial behavior.
Violent video games do not turn children into criminal
One 2010 study that followed the behaviour of 302 elementary school children for one year concluded that the pupils did not become more aggressive after playing video games with various levels of violence. There were no bullying cases among the subjects, one of the most common forms of violence at this age.
Another very interesting study looked at real criminals, namely 294 inmates in a Florida county jail. The researchers monitored what sort of video games the inmates were interested in. What they wanted to know was whether violent games made these men want to imitate what they saw on the screen. They looked at their criminal records as well and came to the conclusion that exposure to violent games did not make them more inclined to commit copycat crimes.
What do crime rates say?
Since the 1980s, video games have become a worldwide phenomenon and it’s not just children playing them. At the same time, the children that grew up playing violent video games in the 1980-90s are today’s adults. If video games made them antisocial, we should be able to see that in crime rate statistics.
Take, for instance, Australia. In 1990, Australia had a crime rate of 2.2 per 100,000 population. In 2018, the rate was down to 0.89 per 100,000 population. There’s a clear trend of violence and crime rate going down over the past few years, despite the fact that many people play video games, some of them extremely violent, far more gruesome than the games kids played four decades ago.
Bottom line, it is impossible to say that playing violent video games will make children more likely to commit a crime and end up with a criminal record.
Nowadays, online services like www.australiannationalcharactercheck.com.au or equifax.com have made it easy for employers to request background checks in the interest of workplace safety. There is no more hiding your criminal history if you wish to get a decent job. If you’re afraid your kid will destroy their chance at a good career because of a failed background check, it’s not video games you should worry about. Psychologists say kids need good role models in their formative years, a lot of support from their family and school, and, of course, lots of love and attention. If a child has all these, a video game won’t make him a criminal.