Harmful Effects of Violent Video Games

Does playing violent video games increase tendencies toward violence?  Researched published today in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, states that it does.  As reported here, “[c]hildren and teenagers who play violent video games show increased physical aggression months afterward.”  The research is based on two studies performed in Japan and one performed in the U.S. and finds consistent results despite the cultural differences in the two countries.  “The study in the United States showed an increased likelihood of getting into a fight at school or being identified by a teacher or peer
as being physically aggressive five to six months later in the same school year.”  The author of one of the studies put the findings in context:  “A healthy, normal, nonviolent child or adolescent who has no other risk factors for high aggression or violence is not going to become a school shooter simply because they play five hours or 10 hours a week of these violent video games.”

This brings me back to last week’s discussion in Internet law about Ashcroft v Free Speech Coalition, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Child Pornography Prevention Act which, among other things, banned virtual child pornography.  The Court relied in part on the lack of a demonstrated causal link (not merely a correlation) between viewing child pornography and engaging in pedophilia.  Based on the reporting about this study, the link may be less tentative than I thought.

3 thoughts on “Harmful Effects of Violent Video Games”

  1. I would love to see the results of this study first hand. Its definitely possible for kids to be swayed by what they watch/play, but I’m just not sold that playing violent video games can cause long term aggression. I do believe that playing video games can give you an adrenaline rush, but so can playing sports.
    Of course my view of video games is biased since I have been an avid player of violent video games for most of the past 10 years, but I’m just not convinced that there is a causal link. Maybe I’m just hoping there’s not because I love playing Call of Duty with my buds over the internet.
    I think its much more reasonable to see a causal link between violence in movies and tv and aggression. After all movies and television mimic reality very well. Remember that 14 year old who got life in prison, and subsequent parole, for killing his neighbor because he was trying out wrestling moves? He probably thought the wrestling on TV was real, and of course those guys never get hurt. What about UFC? Those guys beat the hell out of each other, that’s certainly real, but I don’t hear many stories about kids kicking the crap out of each other.

    One problem I have with these types of studies are that they are done at a critical time in the development on teenagers, especially boys, who will have increased levels of testosterone pumped into their system as they mature. As we all know, testosterone plays a much bigger factor in male aggression than anything else.

    I just can’t see violent video games as the root cause of raised teenage aggression. What if teenage aggression actually has not risen in the time since the invention of video games? What if it has gone down? We can’t know because we don’t have studies for that, unless we do and no one talks about them.

    Also, how many actual fights or acts of aggression actually occur at schools? I know when I went to school a lot of that stuff went unnoticed or was considered normal. Consider now a group of researchers entering a school or schools and conducting research about acts of aggression. Shouldn’t there be a marked increase in the reporting of these acts simply because administrators are looking for them?

    Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I feel like people today are over-analytical about things that are may actually be normal. I’m not saying that it’s normal for teenagers to shoot up schools, because it certainly is not, but maybe it is normal for teenagers to have somewhat aggressive nature. I know that my father, my uncles, my grandfather and other older males tell stories about fights at high school, the gangs that went around breaking stuff, vandalizing and so on. That stuff rarely happened at my high school and surrounding high schools, some of which were in pretty tough areas.
    I’ve always thought that violent, adrenaline pumping video games provided kids, especially boys, a forum to release their aggression just like football and other sports, of course I’ve never done a study on it.

  2. Dislcaimer: I like video games, including the occasional “first-person shooter” games.

    I was always thought the video game rating system by the ESRB was a step in the right direction, but two main problems occurred. First, there are 7 different ratings. The MPAA has four main ratings G, PG, PG-13 and R. Easy to understand, and the movie theatres have not had trouble restricting ticket sales.

    Second, there was not a concerted effort to force retail stores to enforce these ratings and restrict selling of certain games to certain age groups. In movies, audiences cover the entire age spectrum, so ticket sales are almost guaranteed for any rated movie. However, video games target a specific age range, lets say 10 – 25 year-olds (and thats probably stretching it). Best Buy and the like can’t restrict selling based on ratings too much, since the age targets already restrict sales considerably.

    Proposed laws to ban certain video games or establish rating systems will only work if the retail outlets step in line. So far, the federal government has only protected the interests and profits of large corporations, so I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

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