Recent comments in the media have linked the high rate of youth crime to kids playing violent video games. But is the connection really that simple?

The facts

Children are playing more and more video games. Statistics show that about 70% of children aged 8-17 years play video games. The majority of games available today are based around a story line that includes violence. And in the increasingly competitive world of game design, the violent content these games depict is becoming more and more extreme. Theft, murder and rape are often threaded into the narrative of the game.

Overall the research shows that there is no direct link between violent video games and crime. Crime is a complex activity and research shows the reason an individual would commit a crime relate to many social issues; depression, unhappy home life, delinquency or academic problems. It’s reasonable to state that violent games would exacerbate the situation.

Video games are rated in a similar way to movies. The more extreme violent content is rated R and children need ID to show their adult status before they can buy the game in a retail store. However as with all things technology, there are loopholes. Children can easily buy a game for adults online without showing ID.

The other big concern!

But it’s not just the simulated violence in game play that is a concern. There is a huge amount of violence that children are now watching on their devices that is real! This content is coming to children whether they seek it out or not.

It comes through their news feeds on social media, and its widely available on YouTube. It’s may be video of real dead bodies laying on the footpath in Nice, or its gang violence that has been filmed and uploaded, or videos of people being beheaded. Google are working hard to reduce what is available on YouTube, but the sheer amount uploaded makes this a difficult job.

The combination of game playing and the prolific amount of online videos means that many children are exposed to violence at very high levels- whether they want it or not. Children need the support of adults to alleviate this situation.

The solution

There needs to be global effort to manage the violence available online. Videos are uploaded from every country, for the world to see, so a global consortium is needed.

Parents are crucial in the support children can get now. Its important to be aware of the content your child is watching. Also to explain violent content that you may watch together on TV or the news. Explain to your child why the violence has occurred, help them to understand the reason for it. This will help your child to understand the violence that they see online, when you’re not there to explain it. It will also contribute to how they understand and incorporate violent activity in their life.