The use of internet among children as a source of entertainment has become so commonplace that the life of the average child is shaped and determined by the internet. Through the internet, children find it easy to access violent games and movies, which, according to research, have devastating effects on the behaviour and social development of the children. Psychologists explain that watching violent movies and playing violent games has negative effects on the considerations that kids have in regard to human feelings. Apparently, violent video games hinder the ability of children to develop emotions towards the feelings and suffering of other people. This is what is referred to as desensitization – loss of feelings and consideration for other people’s plight. In effect, kids may grow to develop aggressive tendencies. The Internet, video and computer-based games represent forces in youth culture that are not likely to fade. In fact, the role of technology in the everyday life of young people is increasing dramatically. However, attention should to be given to the potential detrimental effects this technology may have on health, education, and society. Worth noting is the reality that video games and the internet have extreme negative effects on the social development of children, as such games, especially the violent ones desensitize children.. This essay endeavours to explicate the desensitizing effects that video games and the internet have on children.
Because of the pervasiveness of the video games and the Internet in homes, and due to the nature and content of this interactive media, an examination of desensitization to observed violence and more aggressive behaviour of children are warranted. Interactive media, such as video, computer games and the Internet have redefined children’s leisure activities. More and more frequently we witness children sitting engrossed behind the illuminated screens, pressing buttons or moving levers, and all of a sudden they emerge from their private world to emit a shout of joy at their victory or howl a curse against a hypothetical adversary who has defeated them.
Graphically ingenious, with scenes and actions accompanied by melody and sound as in film or animated cartoons, video games contain three-dimensional representations of highly complex fantasy situations or, alternatively, reproductions of sports activities or scenes from daily life where the details of natural and human settings or the expressions of the characters are depicted on the screen with extreme realism. Thus video games are certainly not indeterminate. They portrayed specific scenes, settings and actions, and are designed to evoke specific emotions such as fear, excitement, horror, triumph or power. Video games are full of special effects, and children rapidly become completely engrossed in the game, which offered them not only easy identification with the characters but also the fascinating experience of masterminding the character’s actions, being responsible for their success or failure. Children are drawn into a virtual world of three-dimensional images, full of action, where the experience of travelling and adventure become a form of exploration that could stretch out over time and space in a highly variable manner, possibly even for weeks or months. Meanwhile, the existence of the body and the need for social interaction seem to fade into the background.
Moreover, the necessary investment in time, and effort, makes video games one of the most immersive kinds of lean forward entertainment media. Enjoying a video game generally means that children are drawn into the represented world and become less aware of the mediated quality of the experience (Frijda 2004). The resulting feeling of “being there” has been called “(tele-) presence” by researchers of the human-technology interface (Frijda 2004). In a more formal way, presence is defined as “a psychological state in which virtual (para-authentic or artificial) objects are experienced as actual objects in either sensory or non sensory ways” (Frijda 2004). In the case of video games, the state of presence is reached during play that is, when the child interacts with virtual objects in the game and takes it for real (Griffiths et al. 2003). The virtual objects in the game can be rather diverse. Para-authentic objects are characteristic for realistic games. In Medal of Honour, for example, the authenticity of situations, characters, and weaponry from World War II will contribute to the child’s feeling that he participates in a “real” battle. Artificial virtual objects are common in science fiction games. The superior graphics of Halo, for example, may engender the feeling that the artificial monsters are “real,” although the gamer knows he fights them in a fantasy world. In some cases, the experience of being there is supplemented by a real feeling, for example, when the controller provides tactile feedback. The vibration that accompanies a virtual gunshot is a real sensory experience. The actual occurrence of presence in violent video games was reported in two recent studies. Tamborini and his colleagues included a measure of presence in their research about the effects of violence and found that their respondents indeed reported the experience of presence while playing Duke Nukem 3D (Jansz et al. 2005). Schneider and his colleagues found a positive relation between presence and narrative. Participants who played a violent game with a strong story line (Half-Life and Outlaws) reported a greater sense of presence than players of nonstory-based games (Doom 2 and Quake 2) (Jansz et al. 2005).
Hence, video games are a prototypic example of lean forward media. Enjoying a game requires effort, which may result in the experience of presence. This feeling of being there may be gratifying in itself because it enables children to distance themselves from ordinary life (Kirsh 2003). But, these readjustments may lead to conflicts and insecurities about who they are (identity) and what they feel (emotion), as well as about their relations with family and friends (Frijda 2004). The earliest phase of adolescence is generally characterized by an increase in bickering and squabbling between parents and teenagers and by a decline in reported closeness (Kirsh 2003). For many, peers become important in providing emotional support. During middle adolescence, the adolescent’s social network expands, and self-conceptions become more differentiated (Frijda 2004). This may, for example, mean that an adolescent feels insecure in class, but confident among his friends. In late adolescence, the continuous identity work generally coincides with intensifying romantic relations. This kind of emotional bonding generally continues well into early adulthood (Kirsh 2003). Therefore, playing a violent game will not facilitate a rather easy shaping of identity but experience only stressful events.
Above all, there is the specific appeal of violence in video games. Violence is not an exclusive property of video games. It is as popular in other media as it is in video games (Griffiths et al. 2003). The appeal of mediated violence has been explained in different ways. Evolutionary theorists pointed to the adaptive value of watching violence, biologists emphasized that it satisfies a need for excitement, and psychoanalysts argued that mediated violence serves a cathartic function (Jansz et al. 2002). Contemporary discussions of mediated violence are almost exclusively concerned with lean back media through which the spectator is a more or less passive witness to the execution of violence. In a violent video game, the position of the media user is radically different. The child himself, and no one else, decides what acts his protagonist will be engaged in and under what conditions. When a child chooses to kill within a game, he himself has committed this virtual murder (Jansz et al. 2002). Subsequently, he will be held responsible for the violence he authored—by himself, in conscientious self-reflection, and by others who know what playing a violent game amounts to. The personal responsibility of the child is in marked contrast with the moralities of using lean back media, such as a violent film. In the latter case, one can probably be tackled about watching the violence and possibly about enjoying it, but never about having personally pulled the virtual trigger.
The popularity of violent video games proves that adolescent gamers are not thwarted by the responsibility for committing violent acts in the virtual world of the game. These games apparently exert a strong appeal on their audience that supersedes moral reservations. Previous research among adolescents revealed that playing video games may satisfy different needs (Kirsh 2003). The rather small amount of research about violent games has shown that they are particularly apt to satisfy needs for competition and challenge (Jansz et al. 2005). Social needs were satisfied by playing Counterstrike and other first-person shooters on line and at LAN events (Jansz et al. 2005). Finally, it has been found that playing violent games increases physiological arousal (Jansz et al. 2002), which may contribute to the satisfaction of needs for excitement (Kirsh 2003). Game-induced arousal may be a nonspecific corollary of the child’s effort; it may, however, also be a corollary of an emotion that is incited by one or other violent confrontations in the game.
Regardless of the foregoing discussions, it can be seen that the violence that kids watch really does affect their social interaction. Playing video games, in general, has been related to shorter sleep duration, elevated reported tiredness, and a prolonged sleep onset. For example, A South Korean study of high school students with Internet addiction find a 37.7% prevalence of excessive day time sleepiness, whereas the prevalence in possible Internet addicts and non-addicts is 13.9% and 7.4%, respectively. The prevalence of insomnia, witnessed snoring, apnea, teeth grinding, and nightmares is also higher in Internet addicts compared with possible addicts and non-addicts. Plus, playing violent video games can induce aggressive behavior and increase antagonistic emotions such as anger. More often, children will react in aggressive ways towards their peers and try to end a conflict through violent means. Boys tend to be more susceptible to this because of the testosterone in them and this can be seen the fact that despite not being given ‘toys of violence’ (toy weapons, etc.) they will still find a way to show more aggressive traits (Jansz et al. 2002). Furthermore, physiological outcomes such as galvanic skin response, blood pressure, and heart rate may be influenced by violent gaming, displaying signs of arousal.
In conclusion, it is clear that, from the foregoing, playing violent video games is a popular pastime among children. They are eager to spend time and money on this kind of entertainment fare, notwithstanding the fact that violent games often are the subject of public controversy. As it has been mentioned, playing violent video games generates emotions, and young gamers may experience both positive emotions (for example, joy or pride) and negative ones (for example, when graphic portrayals of violence incite anger, disgust, or fear). Theories of emotion explain that an emotion is always linked to a tendency to act. Positive emotions generally come with the urge to prolong the action that originally incited the emotion. Proud gamers, for example, will continue to play. Negative emotions, by contrast, generally motivate the individual to terminate the inciting action or to withdraw from the situation. Children, however, do not follow this pattern. They prolong their play despite the frequent occurrence of situations that incite negative emotions. Apparently, their tendency to withdraw is superseded by the gratifying properties of violent games. Playing a violent game is satisfactory for young adolescents because it allows them to experience a wide variety of emotions, as well as the realization of the concomitant action tendencies. The violent video game functions as a private laboratory in which a gamer can experience particular emotions and construct different masculine identities. While navigating through the game, he decides himself which identity to assume, which emotional situations he will encounters, and which ones he will avoid.
The interactive nature of the game allows him to experience specific emotions in every detail and to see what happens when he fully realizes a certain action tendency in the virtual reality of the game. But, a conceivable negative effect of testing emotional experiences and identity options in a game context may be that it enhances tendencies toward social isolation. The violent video game may turn out to be too comfortable as an escape from the uncertainties of emotional confrontations in real life. Again, violent video games require active involvement of its players. Because gamers put the emotions they feel into practice in the virtual world of the game, they may feel more inclined to engage in aggressive acts after their game play session. So, young people easily run off the rails nowadays.
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