Violent Video Games Promote Civic Behaviors

Just because you're shooting other people online doesn't mean you're going to shoot them offline. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M International University, playing violent video games could promote civic engagement in children.

Science loves the violent video game debate. Over the past decade we've been subjected to study after study attempting to prove that violent video games do or do not influence aggressive behavior in children. It's gotten to the point where the arguments cancel each other out, leaving us with no real clue as to the potential negative effects.

But what of the positive effects? Can violent action games help children become more involved in their communities both online and offline? That's what a recent study by Texas A&M associate professor Christopher J. Ferguson aimed to find out in the recently published study "Call of (civic) duty: Action games and civic behavior in a large sample of youth."

Ferguson used data from a 2008 study by Amanda Lenhart and colleagues at the Pew Internet and American Life
Project that studied the correlation between video games and civic engagement in 1,102 youth. The study, while gathering comprehensive data, didn't focus primarily on violent action games. Ferguson took the 1,102 teens and narrowed them down to the 873 that listed violent games as their top three favorites.

Ferguson further broke down the records, singling out tech savvy parents and parents that were involved in their children's video game playing.

The records bore several interesting correlations between parental involvement and violent gaming. For instance, children with parents that were more involved with their game playing tended to be exposed to more violence than those without, which seems to indicate parents feel better about letting their children play violent games when they are actively involved in the process.

But we're talking about civic engagement here. What about those results? Ferguson's study found that civic engagement - taking on an active role in community affairs - was higher for girls, older teens, and children whose parents were active in their violent video game playing. Violent video games by themselves did not promote civic engagement, but a combination of violent games and parental involvement did.

While parents are required for an increase in civic engagement, online social behavior jumped for violent video game playing children without parental involvement. This is likely indicative of the amount of team work that goes into playing online shooters.

So while the jury is still out on whether or not violent games will turn our children into killers (we're leaning towards no), this study shows that a little parental responsibility can go a long way towards changing a potentially harmful activity into something positive and fulfilling.

See the full study at Elsevier. Thanks to Professor Ferguson for sending it our way.