Gaming and Media: Does it Desensitize Children and Teens?


Nick Cusick, Staff Writer

More and more, today’s media outlets–whether it be through social media platforms, online gaming communities, music, or television–are increasingly violent, graphic, and crude.

When media isn’t carefully censored, it can expose many young and impressionable minds to information, language, viewpoints, and violence that isn’t suitable for them. In fact, as more children and teens interact with violent, graphic, or explicit content online, more of them have been thought by organizations such as the AAP and the AACAP to imitate the behavior of the characters they see in mainstream media, leading younger audiences to become desensitized to the world around them and see violence and inappropriate behavior as a norm in society.

According to the Harvard Health Publishing, “In its most recent policy statement on media violence, which includes discussion of video games as well as television, movies, and music, the AAP cites studies that link exposure to violence in the media with aggression and violent behavior in youths…the authors fear that these games may serve as virtual rehearsals for actual violence.”

While one side of the argument is that they do tend to lead to violent behaviors in youths, some researchers have argued against the connection between violent video game/media exposure use and violent school occurrences, such as school shootings. Most of the young children and teenagers were predisposed to committing violent acts due to personality traits, such as anger management problems, psychosis, and aggression, that were apparent before the events. In the many instances, use of violent video games and exposure to violent media may be part of typical development.

More people are moving towards the idea that there is no evidence that violent media leads directly to violent behavior, but some still hold onto that belief.

However, even though media is increasingly violent or explicit, there is still a large debate regarding the long-term effects on children and teens, and at Vista del Lago High School, students and faculty have their own opinions as well.

At Vista, AP Psychology teacher Janine Shapley has her own stance. “Psychologically speaking, there have been studies done on aggression, and, in young children, there is evidence that children who see aggression do aggression… [but] further research though, says, because we’ve had this whole influx of video games and things, that there is no proof of violent games or even the use of or exposure to weapons as a young child is something that causes you to be aggressive, so, I would say that there is a correlation, but there’s no causation, and there are many people that play violent video games all the time and live happy, peaceful lives,” said Shapley. “I certainly think it desensitizes us, and there’s a lot of evidence about that, it desensitizes us to events… I think even you, or…other students in my class that don’t have any mental health issues, no violence in their past, you hear about another school shooting, and you think ‘oh, it’s just another school shooting,’ like we are fairly desensitized through the constant exposure of the media, so it’s not so shocking anymore. And I think that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.”

Aayush Kumar, sophomore at Vista, also shares this opinion. “The challenge that many people think we face is the youth being introduced to violent games that are designed for mature and older kids and teenagers too,… [but] I think that violence in games isn’t directly related to real life violence, and in most cases of violence, there isn’t a connection between the two. Violence in the real world is usually a way that people let out their anger to real issues or people, not because they saw it in the media.”

Violent media and gaming is still a large concern for many people and they think that is should still be regulated for children and teens; however, due to recent studies, more people believe there is no direct link between violent media and actual violent events caused by children or teens.