Can Online Games Be A Source of Aggression for Teens?

Playing online video games is one way teens can immerse themselves in a virtual world free from the troubles of their daily lives. Studies have revealed that teens and young adults play at least one online game weekly, making it one of the top recreational activities globally. Last year’s, statistics showed that teen video gamers spend at least 7 hours weekly playing video games online. Most gamers prefer to play the game online rather than download it. The online games are across genres from sports to adventures and some of these games are extremely violent.

This brings us to the topic in question; does playing violent online games make teens more aggressive? Over the years, there has been a misconception that playing violent online games can make teenagers more aggressive. In the past, people were encouraged to prohibit their children from playing violent online games. Over time, however, new studies have been conducted to debunk this notion.

Can Online Games Be A Source of Aggression for Teens?

Playing Online Games May Not Be A Source Of Aggression For Teens

The most recent study analyzing the effects of online games on teen aggression was conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute. The study was led by Professor Andrew Przybylski and it relied on comprehensive data from various reliable sources as well as previous studies. While previous studies used data from the gamers, this study collected data from their parents making it more unbiased. Apart from this, other studies on the subject in the past depended on the perception of the teenagers in classifying the game. This study, on the other hand, used two professional rating systems known as the ESRB and PEGI to determine the level of violence.

Following the participation of 2,008 teens between the ages of 14 to 15 years, the study ruled that there is no relationship between video games and teen violence. This shows that there is no cause for concern. Keep in mind that this isn’t the only recent study that has been conducted on the subject.

Keep in mind that in 2015, long before many other studies were conducted on the subject, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released a report stating that teens who play violent video games end up developing violent behavior. The study cited a lack of empathy as the cause. The APA received a lot of backlash from researchers after releasing that report. Their stance on the issue was tagged alarmist and misleading and several studies were conducted on the subject after that.

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In 2018, the APA finally changed its stance on the issue and published another report stating that violent media, online games included, do not cause or promote aggressive behavior. They said that they reached this conclusion after analyzing studies that proved that there was no relationship between online games and teen aggression. To make things more complicated, they discovered that playing video games may reduce the chances of teens engaging in violent activities.

The truth is that there is still a lot of contradictory evidence on the subject. Many published studies support the notion. This is because most of the studies are flawed with publication bias. So, people are more likely to publish articles that prove that playing online video games can lead to violent behavior than studies that say otherwise. The thing is that the evidence from both sides is not irrefutable. However, parents need to individually observe their children and use their discretion to determine which games are ideal and which ones aren’t.

So, What Causes Violent Behavior In Teens?

While there is still conflicting research regarding the role of online games in teen aggression, there are scientifically proven variables that can make teenagers aggressive. If your goal is to help someone, spotting and eliminating the aggression at an early stage will be the best way forward. Some of these variables are;

  • Traumatic Brain Injury: While this is rare, some people might become more aggressive and violent if they suffer a traumatic brain injury. This is because it leads to neuropsychiatric disorders and one of the key symptoms of these disorders is aggression. If your teen suddenly starts behaving aggressively after a head injury, you should talk to the doctor about it and review your options.
  • Genetic Predisposition To Violence: A 2018 study published in Science Today revealed that some people are more prone to aggression and violence than others. The study identified 40 genes that are responsible for aggressive and violent behavior. These genes are inherited and can start manifesting at any point but most likely during the adolescent age.

  • Sexual Or Physical Abuse: Teens who are victims of sexual and physical abuse tend to exhibit aggressive and violent behavior among other negative traits. Giving the teens a safe space to mature and get help may suppress these aggressive tendencies.
  • Alcohol Or Drug Abuse: If your teen starts exhibiting aggressive behavior, even when he or she doesn’t fall into any of the categories above, substance abuse might be a possible cause. They can become more aggressive when they are intoxicated and even act violently when they are deprived of the substance.

Helping Teens With Aggressive Behavior By Identifying The Risk Factors

  • Extreme Irritability: Irritability is normal in teens occasionally. However, you know that there is a problem when a teen exhibits extreme irritability frequently over small matters that aren’t supposed to mean anything, there might be an underlying problem.

  • Frequent Blow Ups: Does your teen lose their temper and blow up at any slight chance they get? This behavior is unacceptable and should not be minimized by parents. If thy notice it, you need to eliminate it before it progresses into violent behavior.
  • Smashing Things: When your teen is angry, does he or she break things in the house? Teens who act this way are one step away from inflicting pain on others or themselves if the behavior isn’t checked and root causes aren’t identified and eliminated.
  • Self Injury: At this stage, the aggression has already manifested and led to other negative feelings like depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, low self-worth, etc. You must seek psychological help if you notice that your teen does this.

  • Bullying And Fighting Others: Teenagers who pick on others aggressively should be stopped. This is because they often project their pain and insecurities to others and the result is bullying. Studies have shown that people who are happy and satisfied with themselves are less likely to bully or fight others.

These risk factors either individually or in combination play a role in aggressive and violent behavior among adolescents. Playing violent online games isn’t listed as a possible cause or trigger for violent behavior. So, a teen who plays online games might start acting violently because of the existence of a combination of these risk factors and not simply because of the video game.

When you notice that your teen who loves to play violent online games is aggressive or violent, simply prohibiting them from playing isn’t going to solve the problem because the game might not be the cause. The best way forward is to take the teen for comprehensive psychological evaluation. A professional will help identify the causes and risk factors. They will also help to reduce or eliminate these risk factors. This, in turn, will reduce the tendencies of aggression and violent behavior.

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