How do violent movies and video games affect children?
Virtual violence is any act of aggression your child might absorb through TV, movies, video games, social media, and other digital channels. It includes simulated violence in blockbuster films and amateur videos and animated violence in cartoons and interactive games. News reports of real-life tragedies also deliver an endless loop of virtual violence.
Virtual violence needn’t involve physical harm. Aggressive, threatening, racist, or hateful statements can be just as damaging to children who witness them as to those they are directed toward.
What children see (or play) influences how they behave
Decades of research link virtual violence to aggressive thoughts, feelings, and actions in children. Even though we’re still learning about the effects of violent content in video games and social media, experts agree that kids are deeply influenced by brutality wherever they experience it.
Witnessing violent acts — whether real or simulated — may give kids the sense that aggression is normal and acceptable. This may lead them to act out what they see and hear, especially if they witness violence at home or in their communities. Newer studies show exposure to virtual violence can trigger mental health struggles, including depression and anxiety.