Parents need to make their own choices before exposing children to violent video games. There is still speculation at the degree to which children may be harmed by playing these games. Studies in this matter do show that children tend to exhibit more aggressive behavior directly after playing violent games, but many argue that few children exposed to such violence will grow up to be violent people.
There are few long-term studies that show correlations between violence in adults as directly tied to violent video games, or any type of exposure to violent media. The games with extreme violence that became popular in the 1990s, like Grand Theft Auto, have not been around long enough to prove that they create aggressive adults.
However, studies on even E-rated (approved for "everyone") games do show that children respond aggressively, especially right after playing a video game with any violence. Further, they do not simply mimic the violence of the game, like practicing karate kicks for example. They may go further and may hit, bite, pull hair, or otherwise attack those around them. The same results have also been found in children who watch E-rated television shows with so-called “fantasy” violence.
Some studies do also show correlation between playing violent video games and aggression in young children, teens and college level adults. Such studies point to increased fighting at school, misbehavior in school, and also criminal behavior of violent sorts in teens. Some argue that correlation is not causation. Though studies show a link, some suggest, it is not proof that the link provides the cause. In other words, the video games may not cause violent behavior but may be simply be coincidental to those who would be violent.
This argument does have some weight, but it cannot be proven that the correlation does not indicate cause. Further, it is clear that some children are at greater risk for aggression and potentially criminal behavior later in life. These children may not always be in populations considered at risk, mainly children with a history of abuse and males. Across the board, the studies showed that children of both sexes from good family structures and poor ones exhibited increased aggression after exposure to violent games.
Another factor that needs to be considered by parents who might let their children watch or play violent video games or television is the relatively passive nature of both. Children often work out aggressive feelings through activity and exercise. Hours spent in front of the TV watching anything, even if it is Sesame Street, means less exercise opportunities for the child. When one adds aggression factors after exposure to violence to lack of activity, one can temporarily have a very aggressive child on one’s hands.
The questions for all parents should be at present: In what way does exposure to violent video games benefit my child? What are the benefits of playing such games at an early age? Do these benefits outweigh potential negative causes?