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How Violent Media Can Cause Aggressive Youth

Casey has a Ph.D. in Sociology and 15 years of experience in academia.

Do violent video games lead to aggressive behavior?

Do violent video games lead to aggressive behavior?

Differing Points of View

According to scholarly research, there are differing views about the impacts different forms of media have on adolescent behaviors. Some researchers express there is a link between children developing aggressive tendencies from video game playing. There are also researchers who discuss how there is not enough research to find correlations between video games and children being aggressive. This article discusses both views.

Violent Media a Cause of Aggressive Youth

Many researchers present information showing positive correlations between adolescent deviant behavior and being exposed to violent media images in the form of video games, movies, and television. Although there has been research drawing positive relationships between these two variables, there are limitations to studies that have been conducted and more research needs to be done to determine the long-term effects of how violence in the media impacts both adults and children.

Violent Video Games and Aggression

Craig Anderson (2003) has studied the effects violent video games may have on people and has found a relationship between video game exposure and people’s behaviors. According to Anderson’s research, violent video games are significantly correlated to variables related to aggression, meaning that being exposed to violent media images influences higher rates of aggression in people (Anderson, 2003).

Media Effects on Children Compared to Adults

Researchers Bushman & Huesmann (2006), also studied violent media’s impacts on children and adults and found short-term effects on aggression. According to their study, adults are more likely to show short-term effects from exposure to violent forms of media. Children on the other hand were more likely to exhibit long-term effects. They postulate that this is because adults have already developed beliefs and behaviors whereas children are young and are in the earlier stages of mental development. Children are influenced greatly by violent forms of media because they are still learning beliefs about the world and how to behave by observing what is around them (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006).

Violent Video Games and School Behavior

Gentile, Lynch, Linder & Walsh (2004) focused their research on violent video games played by adolescents and how playing these games impacted their behaviors at school. They found that adolescents exposed to larger amounts of violent video games had higher rates of hostility, arguments with teachers, and physical fights at school. These children were also more likely to perform poorly academically than children not exposed to violent video games.

Limitations in Available Research

Even though numerous studies indicate that violent media exposure makes children and adults more aggressive and prone to deviant behavior, most of the literature available indicates limitations to past research that has been conducted. Many studies have focused on the short-term effects of violent media exposure. Future studies need to look at longitudinal data to know the long-term impacts on children and adults (Anderson, 2003).

Many studies report limitations to their research and certain variables are not included in the analysis. For example, Gentile, Lynch, Linder, and Walsh’s (2004) research did not examine realistic versus cartoon violence. They also state that they focused their data collection on short-term impacts and that more longitudinal and experimental studies taking into account multiple variables are needed to understand long-term effects to fully understand this issue (Gentile, Lynch, Linder & Walsh, 2004).

According to research conducted violent forms of media do impact people, especially youth. There are links between consuming violent media in the form of television, movies, and video games and children behaving more aggressively in their everyday interactions with others. Even though short-term studies have been done on this issue, the data that exists is far from complete and more research and experiments need to be done to understand the long-term effects of being exposed to violent forms of media. Future research in these areas can be useful in developing appropriate controls to limit the exposure of youth to violent forms of media and ways to restrict content that may be harmful psychologically and behaviorally.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board

Currently, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) determines how to rate video game content based on language, violence, sexual images, alcohol/tobacco/drug use, and gambling, and based on reward systems, player control, and the perspective of the viewer. ESRB ratings are determined by the consensual agreements of a least three trained raters from the ESRB who are adults with some type of experience with children ("Entertainment software rating,"). The ESRB and other rating boards that exist to rate media content have done their own research and look to the research conducted from other sources, like academia, to develop ratings and restrictions. Future research needs to be done to determine better and more effective ratings and to determine if censorship and stronger restrictions need to be applied to violent media content.


Anderson, C. T. (2004). An update on the effects of playing violent video games. Journal of Adolescence , 27, 113-122.

Bushman, B. J., & Huesmann, L. R. (2006). Short-term and long-term effects of violent media on aggression in children and adults. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 160, 348-352.

Entertainment software rating board. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Gentile, D. A., Lynch, P. J., Linder, J. R., & Walsh, D. A. (2004). The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 5-22.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Casey White