This article caught my attention as it relates to some current issues in videogames that I am researching. Crystal Dittrick and colleagues have published an article on their national survey on Canadian youths’ videogame play and their bullying behaviours.
The study examined whether children who bully others are likely to prefer playing video games that are rated high in maturity and violence. A stratified random sample of Canadian children ages 10 to 17 years from the provinces of Canada was obtained. Parents (n=397) and their children (n= 492) completed an online survey of children’s bullying behaviors and their three favorite video games. Ordinal logistic regression analyses showed that parents? and children’s reports of child preferences for mature and violent video games were significantly related to children’s perpetration of bullying and cyberbullying. Panel regression analyses revealed no significant difference between parent and child informants. Children who play highly violent and mature video games were likely to bully and cyberbully their peers, according to both parent and child reports.
I apologize for not posting at the customary time as I was en route to Canada and am recovering from my semester wounds.
The authors’ rationale to study the relationship between bullying and violent videogame is quite simple as the current literature on violent media effects posit that exposure to violent media increase aggressive behaviour. A simple logical step is examining whether violent videogames is a risk factor for bullying among youths. In a similar vein, Sarah Coyne and colleagues examined the relationship between videogames and conflict couples.
The authors wrote that they surveyed children, but when they surveyed youths between the ages of 10 to 17, encompassing several age demographics, I am apt to refer their sample to a broader term. I don’t know much about the literature on bullying, but I do know that there are significant differences between an adolescent in puberty versus a prepubescent child.
The authors included examining cyberbullying in their study, which they defined as “… act of aggression directed through a communications device against someone with less power than the perpetrator.” The only reason of this inclusion was there were no prior studies examining this link. The authors argued that as cyberbullying and videogames share a similar medium and “allow immediate transfer of aggression with “just the click of a button.”” I disagree with the statement as cyber-aggression can be asynchronous, people communicate (text or voice), but the confirmation or even reply of said messages is not instantaneous. The authors also argued that videogames might teach bad language and behaviours, I half agree with the statement.
I can see more reasons why there would be specific connections between violent videogames and cyberbullying. Videogames often include online play with other players, some emphasize it more than others, and so it is becoming more common. Such online play create opportunities to bullying people through more channels and because the gaming- and cyber- bullying is mediated by communication technology, it is possible that gaming-bullying would spill into the cyber-bullying or at least makes it easier to behave so. Another reason is that in gaming, player may randomly encounter other players bullying others of which the victims might retaliate or behave aggressively others, creating a vicious cycle of cyberbullying.
Prior articles on bullying and videogames, primarily published by Christopher J. Ferguson, Cheryl Olson and others [link], have found significant but weak relations between videogame violence and bullying. However, the representativeness of the sample in these studies was a limiting factor.
Participants: 1000 parents and one of their child participated in their online survey. The study is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, so they hired a research survey company to survey a representative sample of Canadians across the 10 provinces. There were 720 mothers and 280 fathers who participated. The child sample consisted of 487 girls and 513 boys, average age is 13.6 (SD=2.3), age range is 10 to 17. The participants were contacted by email for their participation. Now, I am curious as to whether the participants were part of a panel study that research company has access to.
However, the study will examine only 397 of this larger sample because of those 397, they reported their children’s videogame play. Now, I am even more curious why such they have such lower proportions given the ubiquity of gaming among youths. The authors reported that there no demographical difference between the selected sample and the larger sample.
Bullying: The youths were provided a clear definition of bullying and its various sub-types, for example, sexual preferences bullying: teasing someone for being gay whether they are or not. The youths were asked if they bullied others during the last month and followed with seven questions pertaining to the sub-types. Response were on a 5-point frequency scale, but very few of the youths responded with much frequency that the authors rescaled into a 3-point frequency scale.
Videogames experience: both parents and youth reported the latter’s three favourite videogames. The videogames were coded based on the ESRB’s age rating (i.e., M for mature, etc.) for a variable called maturity and another variable called violence based on the ESRB’s content descriptors (i.e., cartoon violence, etc.). 80% of the games names by the participants were coded with information from the ESRB. The rest was coded by the researchers (mostly likely undergraduate research assistants) to determine its maturity and violence level. Others games (59 of them) were too vague (e.g., Nintendo Wii) and thus were not coded. I’ve had some undergraduates did the same thing to me, so it’s not surprising and I know the researchers’ frustration.
The authors report some descriptive results. The variables between maturity and violence is highly correlated, no surprise. Youths’ age is correlated with maturity and violence of videogames, which is not surprising as older teens tend to play more M-rated games. Another thing is that there were no correlation between age and bullying perpetration, so that is a good thing (?). On the other hand, there are gender differences, mainly that boys played more violent videogames than girls, parents reported greater bullying (physical and verbal) among their sons than daughters. The boys reported to have bullied (cyberbullying, verbal and physical) more than girls. I am not surprised by these results.
The authors conducted four ordinal logistic regressions to examine the relationship between videogames and bullying. The analyses differed on parents’ and youths’ reporting of videogame play and the outcomes of general bullying and cyberbullying. The analyses from both parents’ and child’s report on general bullying revealed that boys significantly perpetrated general bullying, videogame violence and maturity were also positive predictors. No interactions between videogames and gender were found. What this means that despite the relationship between greater violent videogames exposure and boys, they have independent relationships with general bullying. The analyses from both parents’ and child’s report on cyberbullying revealed that general bullying perpetration was significant predictor, which means that children who bully also tend to cyberbully. Videogame violence and maturity were also positive predictors. No interactions between videogames and gender were found. Again, independent predictors of cyberbullying.
The take home message is that violent videogames are associated with bullying and, for the first time, cyberbullying among youths between the ages of 10 to 17.
The authors cautioned about the correlational associations between videogames and bullying that they found, it is unclear with their survey data whether bullying is the result of playing violent videogames or that bullies tend to play violent videogames. Some limitations are that they have not included children from the Canadian territories and I don’t see that as a problem, they got a sample that represented more than 90% of the Canadian population, they’re fine. The data is self-reported so social desirability is an issue, parents and youth may not honestly or have terrible memory in reporting their videogames play or bullying behaviours. The authors’ definition of bullying is a single act of aggression and not the repetitive nature, so that may change a lot. Much like I alluded earlier, the authors have not examined the youths’ online play experiences.
Nevertheless, this study does give me some ideas for a future study on gaming bullying. What are the types of repetitive bullying behaviours players commit? Would they bully the same player for a certain amount of time? Or would they just be aggressive indiscriminately on just one encounter? What sort of psychological predictors of gaming bullying?
Dittrick, C. J., Beran, T. N., Mishna, F., Hetherington, R., & Shariff, S. (2013). Do children who bully their peers also play violent video games? a canadian national study. Journal of School Violence, 12 (4), 297-318.DOI:10.1080/15388220.2013.803244