Video Games: Good or Bad for Teens

Brandon Thomson


Video games have a good level of practicality. Their main purpose is to occupy time. In this shade of the definition, video games do nothing in the way of negativity. Video games merely keep kids occupied in times when there does not seem to be much going on. Furthermore, there may be the concern that video games may be a distraction from studies and other beneficial actions, but this is a characterization of a huge number of factors that the student will encounter in his or her life in a household.

To say that all of these factors that distract the student from his or her studies are something that should be removed is a very careless assessment of the situation because practically anything can fall into the designation of a distractive activity. However, instead of trying to abstain from these activities, it would probably be wiser to teach the child that with these distractive elements (video games included) there should be a good balance in life.

Furthermore, video games do not inspire violent behavior. Video games do present violent behavior, but one cannot simply conclude that because violence seems to be prominent in a time when there are video games that they may be a component of the cause. For example, if we are to take an individual who would have some desire to punch someone out in school and may also play a great deal of karate games, one would be more likely to find a direct cause to the explanation than trying to find some circuitous route to the answer.

Let us say that for the purpose of this discussion that I am a high school principle. As such, I am faced with the aforementioned example played out. I have one kid with a black eye and a bloody nose, and I have another individual accused of punching this individual out. How am I to explain this? One option would be that I take the model of Occam’s Razor and use it to my advantage.

The simplest model is the most viable model; therefore, if I have a kid with a black-eye, there must be another kid who had wished to put that black-eye there. By that, I mean to say that this individual in all likelihood who received the black-eye somehow provoked the individual who punched him out. I would not look for ambiguous factors.

An ambiguous factor would be to attribute the violence due to some exposure to the concept of violence. With this idea, I would say this: Video games influenced the person to take action in a violent manner because the video game presents it as a viable solution to the problems presented by the character in the game. How are we to assess the correlation between the degree of exposure to the concept of violence to the degree of violence acted out on an individual level? What would we consider “violence” if we were to assess the correspondence?

If anything, this evaluation of the claim would be at best an approximation of an answer. No one could deliberately answer this question without inadvertently guessing what the terms “violence” and “exposure” would mean. By this I mean to say, that the claim is so ambiguous and subjective to individual interpretation that it is entirely possible to obtain two completely different results based on two different interpretations of the question and both would be correct. And as a consequence of this very fluffy proposal with not a great degree of exactitude and its low probability of having a direct role in the action, it is better to look for more direct explanations for the cause of violence, which would be the individual who received the action.

Furthermore, being exposed to violence in the form of video games does not in any way indicate to the player that violence is an effective means for solving problems. For example, if we were to evaluate the game Grand Theft Auto, we would find that the game presents theft as a way of obtaining vehicles and getting around in the game, but in no way, can the conclusion be made that because the game presents it as an effective solution to a problem that the player of the game can take similar actions to be in a better situation in real-life. One would only have to watch the show COPs to get a concept of this.


With the birth of every new cultural phenomenon, there will be someone there to herald it as a horseman of the Apocalypse. It happened with rap music, rock music, even The Jerry Springer Show. There has been similar chicken little-type outcry over the past decade concerning the proliferation of realistic and violent video games, claiming that we're training a generation of desensitized mass-murderers and video game addicts. These reactions might be a bit over-dramatic, but that doesn't mean that excessive video game play can't be bad for teens. In fact, with video games becoming so inseparable from daily life in our world today, it would border on neglectful not to look into the possible long-term effects on kids.


The most common arguments against video games are that they lead to violence. These arguments rose to a high water mark after the Columbine high school shootings, in which two students allegedly designed a real-life killing spree based on the "Doom" series of ultra-violent video games. As game technology improves and games approach an uncanny level of visual realism, concern has grown about whether game consoles are becoming virtual murder simulators. Some studies have shown a connection between violent games and aggression, but there has been no solid proof that this leads to actual violent crime.

According to a recent large-scale study, detailed in the book Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Video Games( by Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson), parents might not need to worry too much about violent games turning their kids into killers, but these games can lead to more moderate aggressive behavior. The study examined the video game habits and social activity of 1,200 middle school children over a two year span. Overall, the study found that a normal amount of video gaming can be healthy, and that most kids are able to separate the scenarios they see in video games from reality. However, they did find that kids, both boys and girls, who played M-rated video games were more likely to have participated in delinquent behavior during the previous year, such as physical fights or property damage, than kids who didn't play M-rated games.

"We can't say whether games like Grand Theft Auto encourage aggression, whether aggressive kids like GTA, or if other factors affect both of these," Says Olson. "But parents should definitely keep a closer eye on children who play mostly violent games, or play for many hours per week."

For normal, well-adjusted teens, a couple hours of mature-themed games here and there probably won't turn them into sociopaths. However, until more conclusive research is done, it's important for parents to consider the possibility that, in some cases, these games may contribute to aggressive behavior, trouble at school, or poor academic performance. Parents should be especially cautious about the gaming habits of kids with preexisting emotional or developmental disorders.

Video Game Addiction

With the explosion of the online gaming phenomenon over the last decade, a new concern has emerged: video game addiction. Most serious gamers will freely admit that a good online game can soak up your time faster than a ShamWow on a hot day. World of Warcraft, a popular massive multiplayer role-playing game (MMORPG), has probably accounted for millions of skipped classes and unwarranted sick days. But, actual video game addiction, that has to be an exaggeration, right?

Not according to Elizabeth Woolley, the mother of young man, Shawn Woolley, who committed suicide in 2001 after an extended struggle with video game addiction to the game EverQuest. "He played (video games) for about 10 years and had no problem," Woolley told the Washington Times in a recent article, "then he discovered EverQuest. He just became a different person - withdrawn. Socially inactive. The game became the solution to all his problems." Since there was a lack of resources for video game addiction at the time, Woolley started the website (online gamers anonymous) for others struggling with similar issues, and is dedicated to spreading awareness about this growing problem. If you visit the site, you can find numerous stories about how online games, especially MMORPGs, have disrupted lives, families and careers.

The addictive quality of these games is easy to fathom. They offer open-ended, continuously evolving worlds where players can create alter-egos and seek fame and fortune in a virtual community. For teens that are having trouble with real-life problems such as depression, anxiety, or social isolation, these alternate worlds can offer a tempting form of escapism. They may feel a need to reinvent themselves, and may find feelings of reward, acceptance, and self-confidence that is lacking in their day-to-day lives. In some cases, games can start to replace normal activities and peer-interaction that is important to social development.

The AMA is considering officially including video game addiction in the DSM (Diagnostic and statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Many psychiatrists and counselors have already begun treating compulsive video gaming as a disorder, such as Dr. Kimberly Young, author of several books on internet addiction and director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery ( Young claims that online gaming addiction can be just as real as a chemical dependency.

"Compulsi ve disorders can manifest themselves in many non-chemical means such as gaming, food, shopping, or high-risk sexual behavior," says Young, "and the mental health field is just beginning to acknowledge the addictive potential of the Internet to the same extent." According to Young, warning signs of video game addiction include the following:

Lying or hiding gaming use

Disobedience at time limits

Loss of interest in other activities

Social withdrawal from family and friends

Continuing to game despite its consequences

Suggesti ons for parents

Suggesting video games can be bad for teens is not to say that letting your teens have an Xbox is like handing them a gun or a bottle of Vicodin. Like T.V., a moderate amount of gaming is a harmless form of entertainment for most kids. Every child is different, though. For those who are having trouble dealing with issues in their real life, or have an undiagnosed preexisting emotional or mental disorder, excessive gaming may add to the problem or create new ones. It's important for parents to pay attention to their kids' game-play habits, be aware of warning signs, and if things seem to be getting out of hand, seek professional advice. Being informed might help to keep a seemingly harmless activity from taking on a life of its own.

Brown, C. (n.d.). Are video games good or bad for teens? Retrieved June 7, 2013, from

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1) Elaborate on the idea of " if I have a kid with a black-eye, there must be another kid who had wished to put that black-eye there. By that, I mean to say that this individual in all likelihood who received the black-eye somehow provoked the individual who punched him out. I would not look for ambiguous factors." And explain what it means.

2) How would you compare the violence in a game like Pacman, to a game like Halo? Contrast?


3) Why do you think that people jump straight to video games in the act of violence? Explain your answer.

4) What is the problem with saying video games made a child or adult violent?


5) What is your opinion on video games on if they should be removed because of the violence the cause or they should stay because they didn't effect are violence, we would be that way anyways?

6) What would you suggest to a person who is just getting into playing video games?



1) That means that a act of violence would not be done without being provoked, so if somebody has a black-eye, they must have upset the person who had given that to them.

2) A video game like Pacman does have violence as well. When you eat a ghost you are essentially killing it. Same goes for when you are killed be a ghost. Both of these games have violence, in Halo you shoot and kill other aliens and humans to protect others, but they are very different. For one thing Pacman has no blood and he doesn't make a painful scream when he dies like in all of the Halo games. So in my opinion I would say games like Halo are more violent than games like Pacman.


3) I believe they jump straight to video games because e people feel like in the act of a bad time, there must be something to blame upon so nobody else is hurt. This being said I'm not saying people are always wrong just that people go straight to it slightly to fast.

4) The problem with that statement is that you would not know how violent they were before playing video games so you have nothing to compare it to, to say in increased violence.


5) I do believe video games effect are violence but believe they should stay because they relieve anger that you could not positively release into the worlds.

6) I would suggest playing and having fun but not getting to addicted to them otherwise they could lose themselves within the game.