Violent video games can hold back moral maturity of teens


New research by Canada's Brock University into the behaviour of about 100 13- and 14-year-olds has found that over-exposure to violent games weakened empathy for others.

It is thought that regular exposure to violence and lack of contact with the outside world makes it harder for them to tell right from wrong. They also struggle to trust other people, and see the world from their perspective.

The report found that more than half the teens play video games every single day, with violent games - defined as those where players acted out the killing, maiming, decapitating or mutilating of other human characters - were the most common.

The Canadian researchers surveyed 109 boys and girls, aged 13 and 14, trying to understand the relationship between the type of video games played, the length of time spent playing and how it might affect their attitudes.

The study found that playing video games was highly prevalent among this age group, usually between one and three hours a day - and playing violent games was very common.

Non-violent games seemed to have no adverse effects on moral reasoning, regardless of time spent, unlike teenagers who continuously played violent games without any other real-life interaction.

Empathy, trust and concern for others, which should develop as teenagers grow up, were found to be delayed due to the combination of the content of games and the amount of time spent playing them.

Previous studies have suggested that a person's moral judgement goes through four phases as they grow from children and enter adulthood.

By the age of 13 or 14, scientists claim young people should be entering the third stage, and be able to empathise with others and take their perspective into account.

Researcher Mirjana Bajovic said: "The present results indicate that some adolescents in the violent video game playing group, who spend three or more hours a day playing violent video games, while assumingly detached from the outside world, are deprived of such opportunities.

"Spending too much time within the virtual world of violence may prevent [gamers] from getting involved in different positive social experiences in real life, and in developing a positive sense of what is right and wrong."

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