Child Counseling Depression and Video games and screens in Phoenix Arizona

I have been writing articles regarding screen time exposure with youth and a correlation with mental health issues for over 15 years. Many children and teenagers are suffering from anxiety, depression, anger, and behavioral issues in Phoenix Arizona as well as world wide.

Research studies show that after just one hour of screen time children and teens show less emotional stability, and a greater inability to complete tasks or chores or homework. A decrease in self control is also present in these studies.

Research shows that screen time for youth has adverse effects on physical and mental health in youth ( children, teens, and adolescents).

In a study of over 40,000 youth research showed the prevalence of anxiety and depression to be very high for those that were spending a great deal of time on screens: smartphones, computers, video games, social media, ipads, PCs, etc.

Moderate use of screens showed lower psychological being and moderate use was considered up to 4 hours of usage of screen time.

In another study researchers found that children that played more than 2 hours of screen time a day were more likely to develop ADHD Attention Hyperactive Disorder.

 A big takeaways from the research group are that children exposed to more screen time before the age of 5 showed significantly greater emotional and behavior issues and attention issues . This risk was greater than : family issues, parenting, economic issues etc.

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Most parents view video games as” entertainment.” their content is not taken as seriously as that of the passive act of watching TV. After all, most adults today grew up playing pong, pac man, asteroids, space invaders, or defender. Nevertheless, what many parents might not realize is that the challenge for many players today is to rack up points by killing prostitutes after having sex with them. Video games have not only become more violent, the characters have become more real, and the effects that they are having on society, specifically women is shocking. Video games have engaged the “once spectator” to actively participate in addictive violence. Recent studies have undoubtedly concluded that the violence and negative reinforcements in video games have not only successfully promoted violence against women by desensitization, but they have also increased aggressive behavior in children and teenagers to a level that has devastated the lives of many.

Many people are shocked to discover that the video game industry is larger than the film industry. The Interactive Digital Software Association reported that video games are “the fastest growing entertainment industry in America, surpassing books, records and movie box offices combined” (Berger 2002). In 1997 the video and computer game industry generated 16 Billion dollars in economic activity, this does not include computer and video game hardware sales. In the year 2000 it became a 20 billion dollar industry and is still growing considerably (Berger, 2002). IDSA also reported at the time sixty five percent of all Americans age six and older, or about 145 million people, play computer and video games (Berger 2002). The video game industry has increased exponentially since 2002. It is stated that video games, many times is the initial experience that children have with the computer/ technology world. So, if boys tend to be the primary target of the industry, which, they are, what effect does it have on girls. The video game industry recently has generated93 Billion dollars annually in 2013.

If a child’s interest begins with games. most common computer games involve violence and aggressive themes have the effect of turning girls away from the computers in general. This is one way of keeping women out of power. After all, these are male dominated industries. Since computer literacy is essential in most jobs, people who are exposed to computers earlier in life have an obvious advantage. The boys who outnumber the girls in gaming, will be the men who out-number the women in the business world. This may lead to the girls becoming less interested in the world of computers as a career. Girls are not the only ones who are not enamored with video games. Parents are unaware of the violence that is being reinforced hundreds of thousands of times in their child’s brain.

Teenagers report that 95 percent of the time their parents do not check the ratings or the content of video games being purchased. Ninety percent of parents do not set limits on how much time their child can play video games.

We have seen an alarming increase in violence and school shooting. Shootings at Paucah, Kentucky, Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Littleton, Colorado were all cases where the shooters were students who habitually played violent video games. The bloody game Doom was Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s favorite game ( they wounded 23 and killed 13).Two studies examined violent video games effect on aggression related variables. The first study found that real-live violent video games are positively related to aggressive behavior and delinquency. the second study showed lab exposure to a violent video game increased aggressive thoughts and and behaviors. The results are in line with the General Affective Aggression Model, which predicts that exposure to violent video games will increase aggressive behavior in both the short term and the long term ( Calvert, Jordan, Cocking 2000)

A study of about 329 children and media violence was done over a 21 year period by L. Rowell Huesmann at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. Girls and boys participated. This was one of the few studies that followed children into adulthood, which enabled researchers to gauge the long term effects of televised violence. Men in the top twenty percent on childhood exposure to violence were twice as likely as adults to have pushed, grabbed or shoved their wives. The women who scored in the 20 percent were twice as likely to throw something at their husbands. the study concluded that both girls and boys exposed to a lot of televison violence have a greater risk of spousal abuse and criminal offenses, no matter what they were like as children( Ritter, M., 2003). This study was based specifically on violence, however, most video games today are also including very graphic sexually violent images, which are destroying women and the morality of society as a whole.

The effects of viewing sexually violent images was researched and discussed by Ed Donnerstein, Dean and Professor of Communications at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  In his study, young adults ages 18-20 were shown a one hour documentary on battered women. After watching the film, the viewers showed less empathy toward the victims. They lowered their evaluation on the level of injury that the women received. They also under estimated the level of pain that must have been experienced. Both men and women were more likely to display indifference toward the victims. many blamed the rape on the ladies and believed that the women brought it to themselves. It is clear that watching these images are negative, however, the video game industry uses reinforcement tactics to hook children, teens, and adults making the game, not just interactive but addictive. Violence in America and against women has increased since the rise of video games across the country. These games are highly addictive and use many psychological reinforcement principles to hook children to wanting to continue to play. Many youth are playing video games 40 hours a week. 

Violence was declared the number one health problem for women in 1992, sadly, recent studies have concluded that the problem is not decreasing ( Violence, Women, and  the Media, 2000). For example , consider the following statistics: the single major cause of injury to American women is domestic violence, exceeding gang violence, muggings, murders, and accidents ( The Commonwealth Fund, 1993). In the US, one women is raped every two minutes (National Crime Victimization survey, 1996). One in every seven women has been raped in her life time (Daily News, November 18,1998). Also, In America a woman is physically abused every nine seconds ( The Commonwealth Fund, July 1993). In emergency rooms more than one third of American women have suffered physical or sexual abuse ( Sternberg S. 1999) And a staggering thirty percent of women murdered in the US are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends ( national Crime Victimization Survey,1996). Researchers have found that the way the media depicts women influences how women are viewed and treated in society( Violence, Women, and the Media, 2000). For example, many video games are very degrading and often depict women as victims of violence. Also many video games also portray women as sex objects.

In the year 2000 half of the top selling video games contained negative images about girls according to (Children, Now 2000). For example unrealistic body images, high pitched voices,fainting, violence, and provocative sexuality is promoted.

Twenty eight percent of games in a study show women as inferior and powerless. In games like Grand Theft Auto boys are taught women can be treated brutally and this is reinforced in the video game.

Players of Grand Theft Auto get rewarded if they kick and kill the prostitute to death after they have sex with her. Sounds shocking, but it is true and is one of the most popular video games among children and teenagers in the US. After playing for 4-8 hours a day, these acts of violence begin to seem normal.

In the recent shooting at UCSB the 22 year old male stated many phrases in his you tube video regarding slaughtering women and others. He also stated that video games were a way for him to avoid: rejection, loneliness, humiliation, depression, and pain from not having a girlfriend and not having what he wanted sexually and in  relationships. The UCSB shooter mimicked many specific phrases from the video game World Of War Craft relating to specific violence and rage. The UCSB shooter also played: Diablo, and Halo as well as many other video games.

Anders Breivik, the right-wing extremist who has confessed to killing 77 people during a murder spree in Norway last summer, played the violent computer game World of Warcraft nearly seven hours a day for several consecutive months before his attack, prosecutors say.

Breivik, 33, already known to have a long history with the online role-playing game, was particularly absorbed by it between November 2010 and February 2011, when he played for an average of 6 hours and 50 minutes per day, according to prosecutors.

Two decades of research have shown that repeated exposure to violence blunts emotional reactions and makes people less likely to help others in need ( Levine, 1996). Perfectly normal people no longer recognize violence because it is so prevalent in the media. People grow numb to violence with repeated exposure via media. People become less responsive to human pain and begin to lose awareness of what it means to be human.

Before the Vietnam War, fewer than 20 percent of soldiers on the front lines would actually fire at the enemy, however, with games such as Doom used as conditioning tools for the soldiers, the US military kill rate increased to (0 percent in Vietnam. With video games, our military scientifically overcame the soldier’s innate resistance to killing ( game Over, 2000) Violent video games are the mental equivalent of putting an assault rifle in the hands of every American child. By sitting mindlessly, killing countless thousands of fellow members of their own species without any ramifications or repercussions, operant conditioning concepts transfer immediately when the individual gets a real weapon in their hand and are being taught violence. The recent school shootings in 2008 and 2007 serve as an example of a link between video games and heightened aggressive behaviors.

For the video game child/ teenager or gamer, beating a previous high score, or winning a free game, or having sex with a prostitute is all part of Skinnerian reinforcement. behavior that is followed by reinforcement will increase in frequency. In short, video games that make a child or teen or adult feel good will be played again and again. A partial reinforcement schedule will lead to behavior that occurs more often with and is more resilient to extinction than does a continuous reinforcement schedule. These two effects of partial reinforcement produce what is considered addictive behavior. These irregular schedules of reinforcement are in part, what cause these video games to be so exciting and desirable. This kind of reinforcement, which causes addictive behaviors can explain why their is an increase in the video game industry as a whole.

 The AMA states that anywhere in the world where TV appears, 15 years later the murder rate doubles. Ten thousand murders per year, 70,000 rapes, and 700,000 assaults. We must consider the impact of violent video games on the minds and behaviors of our society. The evidence is clear violence breeds more violence in the majority of situations.

Many children are having challenges sleeping at night and have great anxiety. The children report that their nightmares are specific to the video games they are playing. Research shows a lack of sleep impacts: mood, anger, depression, and behavior as well as performance. ADHD, defiance, and conduct disorders are on the rise exponentially.

The 130 Billion dollar Video game industry must be taken seriously. It must start with education and healthy parenting. It must come with boundaries and limitations. It must come with healthy communication and listening to children and teenagers. It must come from healthy role modeling from parents. The video game industry is no different than access to violence on TV or on the internet. Violence and abuse physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually is not ok!

There are 100’s of violent video games out there one is: Call of Duty Black Ops:This gritty, extremely violent military first-person shooter (pictured above) involves constant killing using realistic weapons, with blood and gore pouring across the screen during more intense scenes. Cinematic sequences can be even more dramatic and graphic, with soldiers and civilians alike dying in horrible ways, including graphic melee kills, people burning to death, civilians killed in crossfire, torture, and a shipping container filled with rotting corpses. In one scene, the player steps into the shoes of a villain and goes on a murderous rampage against soldiers, the screen turning red with blood rage as he takes damage. This M-rated game also has frequent profanity, some sexual themes, and drug use.

Do we really want your children actively involved and engaged in violent games daily; the same type of games that the US military uses to increase kill rates at war? Garbage in garbage out. We must find healthy activities that create health and balance for our youth and violent video games is not the solution.

Written by David R Abrams

MAPC, LPC, CAGS

Wwww.lifeworksaz.com

Lifeworks AZ  Phoenix Arizona, Scottsdale Arizona

Articles are not to be taken as a substitute for professional advice or counseling.