A recent study by Professor Craig Anderson “Violent video game effects on aggression, empathy, and pro-social behaviour in Eastern and Western countries: A meta-analytic review”  has confirmed that young people exposed to violent video games, themselves become more violent.

Researchers monitored individuals ranging from young children to university students and covering a wide range of cultures both in the east and west.

See previous Generation Next blog – Review confirms Violent Video Games increase aggressive behaviour – for an in depth report of this review which was recently published in the American journal Psychological Bulletin.

The Psychological Bulletin found that “exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive thoughts and behaviour, and decreased empathy and pro-social behaviour in youths."

Prof Craig Anderson confirmed that "… the effects are that exposure to violent video games increases the likelihood of aggressive behaviour in both short-term and long-term contexts. Such exposure also increases aggressive thinking and aggressive affect, and decreases pro-social behaviour."

This report comes at a time when the government is considering the introduction of R+18 rated games into the market in Australia (many of these games have high levels of violence and sex content).

Kids Free 2 B Kids director Julie Gale, and Generation Next Speaker says parents must take some time to sit and watch video games with their children to really know the kinds of games they are playing.

Adding an R18+ classification means that much more extreme violence and sexualised imagery will be available to young people as a whole.

Julie Gale also recently attended the conference ‘Growing up Fast and Furious’  held by the Australian Council of Children and the Media (ACCM) at Macquarie University where the issues of video game content and classifications were discussed.

Current criteria for video games in Australia

  • The highest video game rating is MA15+
  • Imported games are modified to meet MA15+ rating, and
  • All video games entering Australia must pass through the classification system

The outcome of this debate has been made more precarious by the resignation of Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, who was himself a keen advocate and campaigner for opposing the introduction of video games into Australia with a R18+ classification.

Attorney-General Michael Atkinson made the following points in a letter:

  • Despite classification stickers, parents still make “bad choices” in regards to what content their children view
  • Our desire for unedited games shouldn’t come ahead of protecting children from inappropriate material
  • R18+ content adds nothing to the gaming experience
  • Games classification is different to film classification, in that films can be better regulated, and
  • Children and “vulnerable” adults should not accept violence as a part of everyday life

The next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General is held in Melbourne on April 29. It is not yet known whether the introduction of an R18+ games rating will be discussed.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.