Term Paper: Violence in Web-Based and Computer

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[. . .] The results of other studies have also been inconsistent concerning whether or not violent video game play adversely affects juvenile and adolescent behaviors. For instance, some studies have suggested that violent video game play tends to increase children's overt aggressive behavior compared to nonviolent video game play. A few of the studies found that aggressive play, but not physically aggressive behaviors, tended to increase after children played violent video games (aggressive play and serious aggression were generally considered different constructs, with different intent and sequela) (Ballard & Lineberger, 1999).

Still other studies showed that girls, but not boys, were more likely to play with aggressive toys following violent video game play. Likewise, children who played a jungle-themed game were more likely to play with a jungle toy, while those who had played a karate game displayed more mock aggression (e.g., modeling karate techniques) in their real life play, but the children in this study did not exhibit any increases in serious aggression. Notwithstanding the few exceptions noted above, there is a growing body of experimental research that provides reason to believe there is a causal link between playing violent video games and aggressive thoughts, interpretations, and/or behaviors (Lachlan et al., 2003). Citing the results of two recent meta-analyses, Lachlan and his colleagues report that playing violent video games was significantly and positively associated with aggressive behavior in the populations studied. In response, researchers have introduced the General Affective Aggression Model (GAAM) to help explain how playing violent video games contributes to short- and long-term aggression (Anderson & Dill, 2000). According to this theoretical view, game playing involving violent activities can have a short-term impact on aggression by increasing arousal as well as the availability of aggressive thoughts and hostile feelings. "Through repeated playing of video games, violent scripts for social problem solving are reinforced, over-learned, and thus become automatized, resulting in biased perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs about aggression. The theory also posits that the effects of violent video games may be heightened for the characteristically aggressive" (Lachlan et al., 2003).

A fundamental constraint of the research to date, however, is just how much the genre has changed, even in recent months, making timely comparisons and analyses even more difficult still. New games are being introduced by the truckload, and busy parents will probably not have the time to investigate each and every title that their children bring home. In the past, parents were able to provide some level of control over television viewing behaviors because there was only one or two televisions in the home, and everyone was watching the same thing. However, today, things are much different and not only are there likely to be several televisions in an American home, there are probably at least one or two computers with Internet access as well. Adding to the dilemma (from the parents' perspective) and to the delight (from the young players) is the manner in which these new video games are being specifically targeted at young players, especially boys.

Differences between Violence in Television Programming and Video Games. There is a fundamental difference in the quality and characteristics of the violence and gender socialization behaviors being presented in these two different media today. A recent study headed by psychologist Craig A. Anderson of Iowa State University suggests that video game activities are highly interactive whereas television viewing is passive in nature; consequently, the risk may be higher that the time spent engaged with violent video games could result in violent behavior. Funk and Buchman (1996) note that, "As with television, playing video and computer games provides opportunities for observational learning. In addition to the relatively passive influence of watching television, playing electronic games adds an active dimension that may intensify the impact of game playing" (p. 20). The majority of such video games make the player actively participate in developing the game scenario; however, players are also routinely rewarded for identifying and selecting the appropriate strategies that are built in by the game designer (Buchman & Funk, 1996).

According to Anderson, "The impact of exposure to violent video games has not been studied as extensively as the impact of exposure to TV or movie violence. However, on the whole, the results reported for video games to date are very similar to those obtained in the investigations of TV and movie violence" (cited in Wagner, 2004, p. 16). The adverse effects of violent game playing are further exacerbated by factors such as physiological arousal and physically aggressive behavior, including hitting, kicking, and pulling clothes or hair. Research to date has also identified a reduction in helpful behavior among adolescents who are exposed to violent video games (Wagner, 2004).

For those who have grown up with violent television programming, these concerns may be hard to understand. After all, they watched violence in cartoons and did not apply that same rationale to real-world settings. None of them likely picked up a large mallet and smacked a cat in the head, for example, as a result of watching similar activities in cartoons, so what is the big deal with video games and Web-based games anyway?

According to Tracy L. Dietz (1998), "It is through the process of socialization that boys and girls are encouraged to adopt and develop certain personality traits that are often referred to as masculine and feminine. These personality traits, then, have an impact upon the roles that individuals assume" (p. 425). The adverse impact of inappropriate television programs and advertisements upon the gender role expectations of both women and men has been the focus of much attention; however, as the popularity and accessibility of video games continues to increase, the question of the effect of the portrayal of women in video games upon gender role expectations as well as upon the use of violence continues to increase as well (Dietz, 1998). As Gamson et al. (1992) pointed out, "a wide variety of media messages can act as teachers of values, ideologies, and beliefs and... can provide images for interpreting the world whether or not the designers are conscious of this intent." (p. 374). No one would likely argue that males and females perceive the world around them in different ways, but these differences tend to be ameliorated through life experiences, social interactions and adult relationships. However, young players do not have the benefit of this worldly experience, and run a high risk of forming inappropriate values and views based on the pervasive messages being communicated by these new gaming forms.

Citing the results of a Michigan State survey, Wagner (2004) reports that male players tend to prefer action-oriented video games involving shooting, fighting, sports, action adventure, fantasy role-playing, and strategy. By contrast, female players tend to prefer classic board games, trivia quizzes, puzzles, and arcade games. On the plus side, video gaming tends to engage young players interests and gets them actively involved with technologies and opens up opportunities in higher-paying technology-based careers, according to communications professor Bradley Greenberg of Michigan State. "It is believed that these opportunities accrue to boys because they spend more time working with electronic games and computers," Greenberg adds. "If girls become more involved with technology at an early age, it is likely that the interest in technology will continue into the work world" (Wagner, 2004, p. 16). Should female players become more actively involved in technology fields (including game development), they may create less-violent games that promote cooperative behaviors rather than aggressive ones, and the gender roles that are exemplified will be more accurate (Wagner, 2004).

Educators and parents are not the only ones concerned, and pediatricians are increasingly warning the public about the dangers involved in such video games as well. According to Joel Steinberg, professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, "Be wary of the social-emotional risks of certain toys. Many send a dangerous message that could lead to destructive behavior. Parents should be very careful in selecting toys that may encourage [aggressive] behaviors, such as toy guns, knives, bow and arrows, or computer games and violent videos" (Certain Toys Trigger Aggression, 2003, p. 7).

These warnings are based on the disconnection young people may experience when they become involved in artificial substitutes for real-world experiences. These artificial substitutes provide for real alternatives, many of them violent, simply do not exist in the real world, or if they do, they inevitably lead to disaster in the form of school shootings, an increased incidence of domestic violence, higher dropout rates and a host of other social ills. According to Steinberg, "Young children who play violent video games are not participating in real-life experiences. If they run into a roadblock on a computer game, they may destroy it, and that is not appropriate in real life" (2003, p. 7). Nevertheless, the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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