Does exposure to violent movies or video games make kids more aggressive?

Although experts agree that no single factor can cause a nonviolent person to act aggressively, some studies (though not all) suggest that heavy exposure to violent media can be a risk factor for violent behavior. Children who are exposed to multiple risk factors -- including substance abuse, aggression, and conflict at home -- and also consume violent media are more likely to behave aggressively.

While exposure to violent media is only one of several risk factors, it is one that parents have control over. As parents, we can make a choice to consistently expose our kids to media that reflects our own personal values and say "no" to the stuff that doesn't. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends Common Sense Media as a resource to guide media selections.

There are so many great benefits to media and technology, including the potential to teach valuable skills. Doing research about TV shows, movies, or games before your kids watch, play, and interact with them will go a long way in helping them avoid the bad stuff.

Ask Our Experts
Was this answer helpful?
Sign in or sign up to share your thoughts


Teen, 13 years old written by Tado12

In Florida their was a school shooting, my step dad said that what motivated the kid was violent games and he said he doesn't want us playing games anymore. But I research this and I found out that they don't now what motivated the kid to act this way, but the kid seemed to have some fascination with guns and he's had trouble with every teacher he's had, plus the fact that his mother died in November. Besides the point this shows me that it has to do with the person and what they've bin threw that causes violent behavior not games I see it as an excuse because my step dad seems to not like it when I play video games and when I'm on my phone, I think he uses video game violence as an excuse to make me play out side which I do pretty often, I think the reason he doesnt like me playing video games is because he was a marine and he knows what it's actually like, Both my older brothers play video games all the time my oldest has a house a girlfriend, and works for the airport and he's played violent games for as long as I can remember but he has no violent action he's one of the kindest people I know and one of the best video game nerds I know, he plays pokemon go all the time and owns all most all the best games you can think of and never once had any violent actions, he's 23 and a strait edge person never once did any drug or drink at all one time my uncle took him to a bar and ordered a cream soda. All I'm saying is that vido games don't make you violent your environment does the people you hang around. So to this I say yes to video games.
Kid, 10 years old

I believe violent media is ok for kids like me who know: 1. its just a game, if this happened in real life if would be a horrible thing, 2. you don't need to copy off of video games in real life, 3. video games and movies with bad things are FAKE, with in movies actors and in games your just playing a game and that thing is not happening at the exact moment in real life.
Teen, 16 years old written by Spencaa

That's like saying, "Oh, I watched the news and saw a bunch of stories about the corner. Time to find some dead people and cut them open!" It's ridiculous, and someone going from a sane human being to a murderer or extremely violent in nature without any warning, family problems or substance abuse issues is like saying they played Grand Theft Auto a lot, and then they just snap, grab an assault rifle and the keys, and go out on a massive rampage. It just doesn't happen.
Adult written by Kei T.

Video games, movies, books, none of that should make your child violent unless they already have violent tendencies.
Teen, 14 years old written by what is the stuff

i agree with horrorfan123 the stuff is as stuiped as anything kids are play gta5 and they are acting like they are the same as anyone
Teen, 15 years old written by Common sense LST

Yes, but only if the kid is really impulsive. Most normal kids who are taught that you should never act like this in real life, would probably be just fine. Do not expose an impulsive kid, to a lot of violent media. Young kids should only view media with reasonable and healthy behavior only.
Teen, 13 years old written by OnionRingsAndMemes28

Video games have NEVER caused any violence in real life neither have movies if anything a recent study showed violence in media DECREASES violence among teens and kids.
Parent written by Morris J.

violent movies and violent video games both come with an age rating for a reason. would you call tom and Jerry violent? yes in the same way Zelda and Pokemon are. would you call Jackie Chan films Violent ? yes, in the same way Streetfighter and DragonBall are. would you call Scarface and Silence of the Lambs Violent? yes, the way Mortal Combat and Grand Theft Auto are. Video Games are far from exclusive to the teen audience, the reality is, same way you would think twice about a film, you should do the same for a Video Game. I think the exposing children and young teens to Violence seen in 18+ movies and Video games cant be good, and should be avoided unless supervised. kids aren't stupid but are impressionable. i speak as a father of a son who "power bombed" his cousin. tv stunts, real life stitches
Kid, 10 years old

It isn't our fault your kid UNLIKE some others forgot 1. its just a game/movie 2. they are stunts, fake in a game or actors, and none of it is real or right for you to do.
Kid, 12 years old

Although if you let a kid watch horribly violent movies during their entire childhood and they were never exposed to fear, sadness, grief, and upsetting subjects, then yes, your child will become violent. But whose child has never experienced those feelings? Kids dont just go by "Monkey see monkey do" for their entire life. Kids know that hurting others is wrong. Children understand that pain is real and diffuclt. A child who knows they have the capability to hurt someone doesn't just go around punching and stabbing, do they? The main thing you want your child to aviod is disregard for others. Other than that, if you know your child isn't too disturbed by violent actions, (or too undisturbed, you know "violence makes me happy") they should be fine.
Kid, 11 years old

I completely agree! kids aren't that stupid! Just because they see a guy in a game shoot someone doesn't mean they will! Great advice!! I play halo 4 and I don't just punch anybody I see!
Adult written by ghost s.

Go give an esports player a gun and see how far they get with it. A keyboard and a mouse will NOT teach you how to take the safety off a gun or fix it when it jams.
Adult written by Robin D.

a keyboard, mouse and computer can get you to YouTube and you can find out how to take the safety off, other safety tips, load the gun, shoot the gun, safety , take it apart, clean it and put it back together and take care of a jam... \
Adult written by Robin D.

a keyboard, mouse and computer can get you to YouTube and you can find out how to take the safety off, other safety tips, load the gun, shoot the gun, safety , take it apart, clean it and put it back together and take care of a jam... \
Teen, 15 years old written by FlimFanE

This can also be proven through the fact that Japan on average plays more violent video games than every other country in the world and yet the homicide rate is so much lower than that of the US. This is because access to guns in Japan is restricted, not because of violent media.
Teen, 15 years old written by FlimFanE

I think the statement that all people who play violent games or watch violent movies, could suddenly snap and turn into murderers is false. I do believe that violent media could be a contributing factor to real world violence, but I believe that mental health issues have more to do with real world violence. People often argue that young murderers often played around with guns and violent games, however if you do more research into these people it is rather obvious that all of them suffered from some form of mental illness.
Adult written by Robin D.

I agree with you. If you have someone who is mentally ill they don't need to be playing these game or watching violent movies. If they are depressed, or showing aggression they don't need to be playing these games or watching violent movies. Not only do they have mental illness but it is also common for them to have been bullied by their peers, and/or teachers and others in authority. Sometimes they may have been molested or abused at home. Most people nowadays are to some degree socially awkward. We have our noses stuck into some form of technology we text, call or skype instead of a face to face conversation in real time and real life. Go outside breath the fresh air, go hiking, skiing, swimming. I think people would feel much better give someone a hug. If you feel someone is being mistreated, talk to him or go tell an adult. Bless you sweet child..
Teen, 13 years old written by Malkie11

No. If you gave a kid a shot gun which he or she used in a video game they wouldn't know how to take the safety off or load it. Video games actually reduce violence because it forces kids to take out their aggression on FICTIONAL characters rather than real people. If a kid gets in trouble for punching someone than it's the PARENTS fault. If someones kid does that than the kid was either not mature enough to be playing a violent video game or the parents didn't teach him or her right from wrong. My Suggestions: COD:12 and up Halo:11 and up GTA:13 and up Battlefield:12 and up Star Wars Battlefront:9 and up I hope this helped you.
Teen, 16 years old written by NewAgePerspective

Word! this person knows what's up. Now a warning, this isn't an excuse for your child to play god of war. I play it, not very frequently. if you actually want you child to not mess with guns, take them to the gun range. it's odd and counter-intuitive but it works, all you have to tell them that human skin is like paper and shooting anyone would kill them. It gives kids the frightening truth that if a gun were to be used on them, they'd have no chance.
Adult written by Random S.

Why is that nobody ever talks about movies? Video games are nothing compared to what movies can get away with!
Parent of a 9 year old written by Atsu W.

Not at all, in fact it gets the aggression out. It always takes away time that they can have the chance to be aggressive and violent towards others and be away from ur control by gaming or watching TV. Do not listen to these other parents who learn there facts from an article found 10 years ago and live by it, science changes and so does development of children. Violence is a ok. That is of course false if you have a special needs child with say autism of course. They do not have the mental capacity to recognise that is wrong and it may affect them.
Teen, 14 years old written by Tiger827

No it doesn't. It depends on the maturity of the kid and the kids parents for decisions. I play games like DOOM, Mortal Kombat, CSGO, and have no violent tendencies.
Teen, 13 years old written by alencia14

but I also think some kids can be allowed to play these games depending on their maturity and how the react to things. I play gtaV saints row cod3 modern warfare ect. and I'm a girl but that doesn't mean others can do the same.
Teen, 15 years old written by SneakyPartridge

Video Games don't cause violence. People cause violence. Quite simply, teenagers know the difference between games and reality. Younger kids probably shouldn't be allowed to play games like GTA or Mortal Kombat, but many of them don't understand the themes in these games anyway. It's often only people with psychological or mental issues that can take video games the wrong way, but the actual content in the game is not the cause of this.
Adult written by MiketheTzar

The Problem is that people often lump a lot of games into the category of "violent". What it really comes down too is the nature of the violence, how it is being portrayed, and the overall tone of the game itself. Take for example Mortal Combat and Super Smash Brothers. Both games are at their base fighting games, games which comes with an inherent degree of violence; however the similarity between the two games (on a content basis) end there. Super Smash Brothers comes with all the violence of the average loony toon short. Sure you have characters punch, kick, and attack each other in any number of ways, but the important thing to notice is that there is no blood or gore, the most violent thing in the game is a character getting hit with a sword and flying through the air. Mortal Combat however has an almost macabre obsession with gore, the famous fatalities are as gruesome as they are varied (feel free to look them up but be warned the are not for the faint of heart). The important thing to know about buy games for your children (violent or otherwise) is that there is a wealth of knowledge available on almost every game in the market place. The gaming industry itself has a lot of different outlets for parents or children to learn about a games content before buying. If you are curious about a game your first step should be to check what is called the ESRB rating (or Pegi if you are buying a European product) this system was designed to mirror the MPAA rating system for movies (G PG PG13...) and comes with a handy guide to what content may have pushed the game to the higher rating and the gamging companies are required to print these rating on the box or digital download portal.
Kid, 11 years old

No. I play Halo, Destiny, etc. all the time. But that's just me. If your kid has gotten into fights or has previous violent behaviors, then just say no. If they are peaceful, try hard in school, and don't get in fights, then say yes. However, I am referring to the 10+ group. Don't buy your 7 year old an "M" game, or even certain "T" games.
Teen, 13 years old written by Jedibossman

It depends how mature the kid is and how young if he's not mature yes if he's mature but like 8 probably no
Teen, 13 years old written by TheGuardianPie

I have played games like Grand Theft Auto V and Halo Reach with my friends, and I can tell you that my answer is certainly not. Although there are violent themes expressed in these video games, they do not reflect on me. I have been to the very dark corners of the internet, all which do not faze me or change me in any way. It may be that I have a thick gut, or that I just have a dark mind, but playing or witnessing something violent doesn't cause violence. You don't need to worry.
Teen, 14 years old written by Cody132

My answer to this question is No,the reason why is that many people play GTA/Call of duty/etc but today there's so much violence speared though out the world that many kids can immanent and kill real people.In concussion videos,video games,television all of that is a phase because its not really the cause its the person the kids of today play first person shooter now only %50 of kids play tag but its not the kids fault its the person who immanent it also if they like killing that's wrong in so many levels and kids should know the different between RIGHT & WRONG kids are smart and should choose the right path and that's my speech :D.
Adult written by Ricks Sureno

Aggression isn't always physically violent, but it's hard to say the scope of influence that tolerance to aggression has over behavior, and whether or not the aggression is used in a positively or negatively.
Teen, 16 years old written by Varsus Osvourn

I'll lay it out simply. Violence in video games doesn't contribute to actual violence in reality. It doesn't influence anyone in any way, the only way it possibly could is if you believe it does (as in, you think video game violence influences you, so you tell your brain it does). Also, in response to another review I saw on this topic, no it does NOT depend on the scope of the violence. To me, that's an excuse. The ONLY thing that you need to teach young kids about violent games is; the difference between violence in reality, and violence in video games. If your kids can understand that difference, then they're fine. They're not going to go on a murder spree just because they did in a game, that's absurd. However, if they CANNOT deffrentiate the violence in video games to violence in reality, then that's where you need to be concerned. I have spent a great many years playing violent video games, and not a single one of them has influenced me in any negative way. Also, in response to the review made on march 28th, people can play as many violent games as they want, as long as they know the difference between violence in video games and violence in reality. If they know that, then there are no worries. That concludes my long rant on this subject.
Adult written by chrijeff50

I think you have to consider the scope and quality of the violence. A lot of us on this listserv are probably Baby Boomers. We grew up on, for example, Westerns. Lots of shooting, but never over graphic, the Bad Guy always Got It in the end. And very few of us today are violent people.
Educator and Parent written by RicaS

It seems to me that people need to observe & practice being cooperative, collaborative, friendly, and kind, it's not enough to just be told it's a good idea. Just like people need to learn how to fight well - not many people instinctively do it well enough to be successful at it. The more time a human being spends observing a particular type of interaction, the more they study that and learn from it. I'm concerned that pretend violence not only uses up time that might otherwise be spent learning more creative, productive, collaborative, and kind interactions, but at the same time, it teaches really lousy, unrealistic fighting skills, and builds the habit of passive, predictable behavior - sitting, pushing buttons. If frustration, lack of creativity, and powerlessness make a person act out their feelings of aggression with violence, then giving young people time to practice methods of dealing with strong negative feelings, and developing the intellectual & creative muscle to find solutions to conflict would be the antidote. Does the violent media provide examples or practice in creative, problem-solving negotiation & collaboration? Does it take up so much time, there's no time left to practice other skills? Does it glorify or normalize aggressive responses?
Teen, 14 years old written by LostInPLace

No. You'll know if they can or cannot seperate what is real and what is not. And it really doesn't. The cases you hear about on the news are one in a million things, and they are not normal teens. We treat it like a game, and that's all it is. A game. People get far more worried than they should be. Sheltering kids only leaves them suceptable to things like these in the future.
Kid, 9 years old

Being 9, I watch lots of Dragon Ball Z. It has a lot of fighting but hasn't changed me. So no.