Do Video Games Cause Violence in Our Kids?

do video games cause violence

I was talking to a mom friend about the woes of limiting the time I allow my kids to play video games when she said something that caught me by surprise: “At least you let your kids play video games.”

Many moms won’t allow their kids near video games out of fear they will become aggressive or violent. So, what does the latest research say? Do video games cause violence (or are we worried for nothing)?

According to the latest science, no.

The latest research keeps pointing to the same conclusion about the causal relationship between video games and violent behavior: There is none. Sandra L. Shullman, president of the American Psychological Association says, “Attributing violence to video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors, such as a history of violence, which we know from the research is a major predictor of future violence.” 

We keep asking, “Do video games cause violence?” and science keeps saying, “Not really.” So maybe it’s time we start asking different questions.

Then why does he get so worked up?

My kids get moody when they’re losing a round of their favorite game, but moody isn’t the same as aggressive. Frustration is a normal part of any type of competition. The problem is when my kids act on that frustration. When my kids start arguing over winning a game, it’s tempting for me to lose my cool, unplug the game, and throw it out the window⁠— perhaps giving me a mirror that shows the real source of their behavior. But I digress.

The truth is that the video games themselves aren’t making my kids aggressive, but merely revealing what is already wedged in their character. Video games actually can provide an opportunity for my kids to work through their frustrations in a healthier way.

Does the game itself matter?

Age-appropriate content matters a great deal! Before allowing my kids to play shooting games, I told them why I was hesitant. I told them why I didn’t like the idea of normalizing violence, even if it doesn’t have any blood or gore. I talked to them on a range of subjects from bullying, to guns, and even to PTSD. If your kids aren’t ready for talks about what is happening in a video game, they are probably not ready to play the game. 

There are so many video games out there that it could be a little overwhelming to know which are appropriate. I suggest using the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating as a guide. But don’t underestimate your mom-gut.

What about video game addiction?

My kids are still relatively young, so it’s easy for me to monitor the amount of time they spend playing. But for some kids, video game addiction is a real problem. If you notice that your child chooses to spend most of his or her time playing video games rather than socializing or hanging with the family, or if the grades are taking a hit, it might be a good idea to set some boundaries.

A couple of practical tips would be to make them get homework and reading done first and follow the APA’s recommendations for screen time according to age.

How do you help your kids use video games responsibly?