Are video and computer games a risk? Playing video-and computer games and aggression in 12-and 16- year old adolescents
Today, playing electronic games is a popular leisure activity for adolescents, especially for boys. Despite of the huge variety of electronic games available for youth, research usually exclusively focuses on the negative impact of violent electronic games. We consider this to be a narrow focus of research to date, as presumably not all game playing youth use violent video games. Thus, the main goals of the present study were threefold: (1) We investigated how many youth regularly play electronic games. (2) We examined the motives why adolescents play electronic games, and (3) we analysed the relation of playing electronic violent video games and aggression. In addition, we compared two age groups concerning these topics. 183 early adolescents (73 boys, 110 girls, M = 11.8 years) and 204 late adolescents (100 boys, 104 girls, M = 15.5) participated in the study. Students were asked to indicate whether they play electronic games and to write down the names of their favourite games. A new questionnaire was developed to measure motives for playing electronic games. Both forms and functions of aggressive behaviour were investigated using the Little et al. (2003) scale. Our main results show that in both age groups, more boys than girls played electronic games, and that fun and achievement were the most important motives for playing electronic games followed by boredom and stress reduction. According to our third goal to analyse the relation of playing electronic violent video games and aggression, in a first step all nominated electronic games were rated according their age appropriateness and violent content. Based on this categorization three groups of youth were identified: players of nonviolent game, players of ageappropriate moderate violent games, and players of age inappropriate violent games. Early and late adolescent boys and girls were not equally distributed in these three groups. Those adolescents who played age inappropriate violent electronic games scored higher on overt and reactive aggression than the other two groups. Thus, playing violent electronic games is not a risk factor per se. The negative impact of violent electronic games very much depends on the age appropriateness.
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