Do Violent Games Cause Behavior Problems in Teens?

Violent computer games have long been popular with teenagers, and with the improvement in technology, many violent games have become more realistic. Excessive violent gaming can become a serious problem because teenagers can develop antisocial behavior and become disconnected from reality, according to Laura Berk, professor of psychology at Illinois State University.


According to Berk, teenagers who frequently play violent video games are more likely to become withdrawn. She states that addiction to violent games is a cause in itself. A 2010 BBC news report about the risk of computer addiction included an interview with a 19-year-old boy who skipped school and had angry outbursts if his parents tried to stop him from playing a violent video game 2. The American Psychiatric Association is calling for more research before placing computer games addiction as an international recognized mental health disorder.

Violence as Normality

A research report in the May 2010 issue of "Psychological Bulletin" led by Iowa State University psychology professor Craig Anderson found that violent gaming can increase feelings of aggression and antisocial behavior in teenagers, regardless of their sex. Overexposure to violent images found in computer games can lead to the view that violence is a normal way of life. Berk also writes that the Columbine High School teenage murderers were obsessed with playing a violent video game.

Positive Behavior

An argument can be made that limited use of video games, including violent games, can have a positive role in a teen's behavior. Anderson mentions that many violent games involve helping others or saving people from an enemy and being a "hero." This could produce positive behavior in some teenagers such as an increased desire to help, protect and care for other people. If playing violent games is a shared activity among friends or family, it can increase social skills and sharing behavior in teens.

Other Factors

It's usually not violent video games alone that play a part in a teen's behavior problems. Berk argues that on top of excessive video gaming, there is usually a combination of different factors at play such as low self-esteem, antisocial friendship groups and an insecure family life.