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Aggressive Behavior in Children: An Aftermath of Hostile Video Games

Submitted by on November 9, 2017 – 9:24 PM

aggression-aggressivity-360In this day and age, it is common to witness harsh, hostile and intolerant activities among societies. The rise in ferocious and intolerant behavior in Pakistan has indeed become a source of delinquency; not even a week passes before another dreadful act of aversion quakes humankind again. Aggression grows when an individual is surrounded by an oppressive milieu that usually acts as a centrifugal force towards negative vibes. The instant question that comes to mind is: which gadget is eliciting such brutal attitudes in our individuals?


There are numerous ‘why’s and ‘wherefore’s that provoke these aggressive behaviors, including biological factors such as the level of testosterone in males and alcohol, as well as socioeconomic factors such as poor parenting, possessiveness, nonexistent social honesty, poverty and unemployment (Barbour, 2015). Alongside these, the chief reason behind aggressive acts is widespread exposure to fierce entertainment media such as video games, which mediates exposure to violence and ultimately provokes aggressive tendencies.


These time-consuming  and influential video games instigate frustration and anger among our youth. Moreover, I have chosen this topic for scholarly purposes due to increasing concern over adolescents showing stubbornness, anger, hostility and delinquent behaviors in recent times. Being part of the world of technology, I consider video games to be the main reason behind such acts. This great alarm among the public is indeed allied with alterations in behavior stemming from these electronic games.


Nowadays, simply searching a gaming zone is very convenient for any individual, allowing everyone to play any kind of video game without any limitation. Furthermore, indulging in aggressive actions distresses one’s personality physically, psychologically and emotionally. In my opinion, children — the future of our nation — are the most vulnerable to these violent tendencies that will eventually create vivid, massive destruction in our future. Additionally, I aim to spread awareness among readers about averting transmission of such aggressive heritage to our future generation.


One of my friends was diagnosed with acute gastritis at the age of 14. She was admitted thrice in the span of 6 months. Doctors were not able to find the main cause of her multiple admissions. She was a stubborn and aggressive child, according to her mother.


Later, further inquiry revealed that she was fond of playing video games; moreover, she used to bite her friends at school and her academic performance had gradually decreased. Playing violent video games with her peers had become a source of pressurization and stress, and consequently the reason behind her recurrent gastritis. Therein, she was referred to psychologist for behavior management after the recognition of violent video games as the aggressive stimulus continuously triggering her frustration.


Here, the question that comes to mind is: what does aggression basically mean? Human aggression is a type of behavior directed towards another individual that is carried out with the immediate intent to cause harm. Aggression is classified into two categories: physical violence, i.e. hitting, slapping, hair pulling, biting, shoving, and verbal violence, i.e. taunting, threatening, malicious teasing and bullying.


Such conduct can be motivated by exposure to fierce video games, wherein players not only interact with the game tangibly — they are not modestly stirring their hand on a joystick — but are also asked to relate with the game mentally, and enthusiastically at that. Moreover, players do not simply broadcast their characters on screen, but rather, they adopt the mannerisms of these characters in real life as well.


The aggression pervasiveness rate in Pakistani children was estimated to be 49.6% in 2010 (Kanne & Mazurek, 2011). A large part of this is accounted for by children playing video games such as Counterstrike, which involves killing others for their own survival. In addition, these games enhance their gaming experience by superior illustrations, e.g. the echoes of shouts and the blood, due to which the graphics of these games play an imperative part in apprehending consumer attention.


The popularity of video games has transcended entertainment across the world. The true magnitude of deleterious effects on behavior are also observed. The consequences of playing action video games have been addressed through numerous studies detailing video game addiction that address impairment to family, social and mental functioning. Several reports show  a link between the time children devote to video games and impulsiveness, such that juveniles are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


The hours consumed playing electronic games also interfere with the time normally devoted to studying, thus diminishing scholastic performance. At the end, we obtain a most significant upshot of these knockouts as a result of excessive exposure to ferocious video games that intensify the probability of aggressive thoughts, frame-of-mind, and comportment that ultimately cause desensitization to viciousness. Now, we must elucidate the consequences of this distressing impression on the later stages of juvenile lives.


Consequences of Aggression:


Physical Effects: Increased chances of epilepsy, activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and consequent generation of the fight-or-flight response, and release stress hormones that induce increases in heart rate and respiratory rate, dilate blood vessels, and raise the blood glucose level. When the SNS elicits such physical reactions, it causes wear-and-tear on the body. An additional consequence of SNS activation is chronic migraines (Tovian, Thorn, Coons, & Labott, 2016). Moreover, these children usually face insomnia due to imaginary experiences of whatever they have seen in violent video games.


Cognitive Effects: Aggression also causes drastic effects on cognition, including deficiency of self-control, inability to concentrate on a task, deprived decision-making skills, difficulties in expressing feelings, reduced communication skills, greater impulsiveness and poorer academic performance.


Behavioral Effects: The child usually picks fights with peers, is easily distracted, and faces an inability to control/regulate strong emotions. This results in the output of more assertive emotions from the system, just as my friend engaged in pushing, biting, kicking, hitting, and other types of destructive behaviors. These behavioral issues cause supplementary social problems.


Psychosocial Effects: Aggression decreases helping behavior and empathy, leading to low self-confidence, difficulty in mingling with new people, adjusting to new environment, and an inability to hold interpersonal relationships. In advanced stages, this culminates in fearfulness, irritability, nervousness, hopelessness, anger, frustration, oppositional defiant disorder and, finally, social isolation.


If these tremendous outcomes are not been promptly addressed, the child may eventually end up with permanent psychological alterations, such as antisocial personality disorder, deviant behaviors, delinquency, depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. Children may manifest aggression in many different ways. They could be verbally, physically, sexually or emotionally aggressive when interacting with others both at school and in public. Any learner who develops aggressive behavior might also choose to live by the dictates of the peer group whose culture is mainly in conflict with adult values and norms.


Now the query to get you to your feet is: what is the association between the use of powerful video games and adapting aggressive behaviors? Here, we will answer this question by explaining the above relationship in the light of the script theory and General Aggression Model (GAM).


According to the script theory anticipated by Huesmann; when children witness ferocity in mass media, they engross hostile characters. Scripts express surroundings and frame a certain comportment; a singular person initially chooses a script to symbolize their state and shoulders a character in the script. The minute a script has been absorbed, it might be reclaimed in the long-run and used as a director for behavior. Scripts speak of vastly available and incorporated mental illustrations of situation-specific causal links, aims, and achievement ideas that can encourage compound aggressive acts. When strongly interconnected, these ideas can formulate a script and become a unitary model in semantic memory.


Likewise, scholars believe that even a little script rehearsal can modify a person’s hopes and intents encompassing vital social behavior. An often rehearsed script advances approachability in two events; multiple rehearsals craft supplementary links to further models in memory, thus growing the sum of lanes by which the script can be triggered. Additionally, multiple rehearsals also escalate the power of the links themselves. A child who has perceived multiple illustrations of consuming a gun to resolve a disagreement on media is expected to devour a handy script chronically available across many state of affairs.


Heading in the direction of General Aggression Model; the GAM aims to connect the growth of hostility and individual dissimilarities in vulnerability to the impact of intense electronic gaming. This model comprises of 3 central points of attention, of which the primary one highlights person-situation participation and threat dynamics for aggression. Person inputs include persona traits, sex, approaches and scripts, whereas situation inputs take account of aggressive prompts (e.g., presence of guns), provocation and incentives. Another focus is the internal state that encloses cognition (thoughts), affects (feelings) and arousals (physical) that influence an individual’s interpretation of a destructive act, while the final one focuses on outcomes of the underlying appraisal and judgment processes.


The GAM also clarifies that violent electronic games have both instant and long-lasting effects. Basically, according to the GAM, there are 4 core categories of effects of intense video games: the primary effect is the destructive affect, wherein ferocious video games intensify hostility-related approaches such as annoyance and fretfulness. The added outcome is the escalation in biological stimulation, i.e. heart rate, blood pressure, altitude of stress hormones in the physique of the performer, etc. The third upshot is the destructive cognition i.e. hostile priming, violent attribution and unfair approach, leading to the added effect of the aggressive conduct as fierce video games are an aggregate of the physical urging, aggressive beliefs, and antagonistic affects that concurrently root the escalation of all aggressive behaviors.


Considering all these aspects, I will now discuss what major measures we can take to overcome these consequences. At an individual level, the role of nurses is very important in dealing with and averting aggression in children caused by violent video games. A mental health nurse should use a therapeutic relationship as a base, following which all nurses should ensure patient education by communicating to them appropriate ways to express anger, counsel each child individually by making them explicitly aware of the consequences of video games later in their life, use assertive training to build basic interpersonal skills, and guide children to use different therapies and techniques to control their anger. This includes self-help techniques in which child will stop suppressing his/her frustration and will instead act out in a positive way, mindfulness therapy which aids in swinging the focus of their devotion from the aggression-triggering episode to an impartial part of their body such as the soles of their feet, music therapy and progressive muscle relaxation therapy to divert the mind from aggressive thoughts and relax itself.


Leading towards a community setting, nurses within a society can carry out certain awareness sessions on parental control. Studies have revealed that there is a privation of parental comprehension. Teenagers studying in standard 8-12 in USA claim that 90% of their parents do not check the rankings of the game before permitting them to buy it. Also, 89% stated that their parents never restricted the hours that they devote to playing video games (Walsh, 2000).


Nurse should advocate that the parents need to have an eye on their children as to what sort of games they are buying, and should also consider the ratings of the game and content of the game to prevent aggressive behavior in their children. At last, what is the role of nurses at an institution level? Beginning with pharmacotherapy, an aggressive person should have a rapid tranquilizer (RT) in his medicine course as, according to the NICE guidelines of 2005, the use of RT to calm or sedate a child reduces the risk of harm to self or others, thus achieve an optimal reduction in aggression.


Institutions should take a close look at their environment by removing impulsive-stimuli and offering a quiet environment for children to express their emotions. Furthermore, incorporating room programs, cathartic activities, limit-setting, timeout strategy, token economy, seclusion, and restraint (when needed), these activities are conducive to diminishing the chance of unfortunate patient deeds while also enhancing adaptive societal and freedom functioning. From an academic platform, Promoting-Alternative-Thinking-Strategies in the syllabus imparted to rudimentary school-learners will ultimately target emotional proficiency (manifestation, accepting, and regulation), self-discipline, social skills, constructive peer associations, and personal problem-resolving skills.


In conclusion, the impressions of violent video games are a center of concern in our generation. Aggression (mutually physical and verbal) holds serious penalties on individual temperament. The script-theory and GAM theory should be vigilantly used to observe and deal with antagonistic comportment. Moreover, nurses should perform a dynamic role at individual-, community- and institution-level to bring about an improvement in youngsters’ behavior so as to safeguard our nation’s future.



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