Does Watching Violence Induce Violence?
It is commonly speculated that anybody who is exposed to violence has a greater tendency to adopt it. Based on this speculation, there is a huge debate surrounding one of the most common exposures to violence: video games.
Recently, the nationwide ban on a certain video game that has been placed in Pakistan has sparked controversy. The public seems to have many questions along with mixed feelings of confusion, anger and in some cases, relief. Some major questions, however, have surfaced such as whether watching violence makes one violent or whether video games and action movies depicting violent scenes promote violent behaviour in real life.
Is this kind of gaming unhealthy for adults?
While watching violence, in general, would not make someone violent, there are, however, exceptions. If the person being exposed to such games is otherwise in a healthy state of mind and limits their exposure to a reasonable duration of time, it might not be risky. Video games and movies for leisure are not dangerous for mental health or negative behaviour patterns. What makes such exposure dangerous is if and when it crosses the line from healthy to borderline obsessive and then to obsessiveness.
Say, for example, the said person is struggling with a crisis in real life and they get sucked in a spiral of playing such video games which can be quite addictive. They invest many hours of their day on that single activity which does not even give a positive outcome in the end. What it does instead is that the continued exposure to such content begins to normalise violence. The person may start reacting less to news about violence or they may even not find them of concern at all, slowly losing the concept of right vs. wrong, positive vs. negative.
Additionally, people who tend to have anger management issues are more vulnerable to acting violently due to various kinds of triggering real life experiences and / or a fascination of violence in games and movies. Specifically in the case of video games, people experience a certain “pressure” to win, which can also lead to aggression. When one starts playing a video game of this genre, a subtle change in the personality can manifest while the person is gaming. At that point in time, such a change may not be problematic or even noticeable but, in case of addiction, it might worsen the anger management problem in the long run.
How do these games influence young minds?
When a young child or even a teenager is observing the real world, they absorb all the information they come across. When tender minds are exposed to video game violence, they could learn to accept it as normal. Corroborating this information with the events of the world and the related chaos, they would get more reaffirmation that violence is acceptable. And before they would know it, they could start contributing to the violence around them. Therefore, it is the parents’ responsibility to check and regulate their child’s exposure.
How to mitigate the problem?
Access to such games and movies is widely available on various platforms, and so getting rid of one platform would not make much of a difference. It is the responsibility of watchdogs, mental health professionals and elders who understand the repercussions of such activities to advise and educate the people who are becoming addicted. In the case of children, it is the parents’ responsibility to guide them and keep a close eye on their gaming and social media activity.
Thus, while admitting that watching violence may induce more of it by normalising it among a certain type of individuals, the actions needed to curb the problem need to be well calculated. Rather than reacting abruptly, which might adversely affect the addicted users, it is perhaps better to spread awareness and give users time to gradually limit their usage of such content before placing a complete ban. It is only through helping and educating each other that we can ensure a happy, healthy and violence-free environment for our future generations.