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Violent Video Games Linked to Aggression in Children, Says Study

Emotions during the computer game

A study of more than 3,000 school-age children found that playing violent video games a lot seems to increase the odds that children and teenagers will engage in aggressive behaviors in real life.

Researchers said that frequent exposure to the violence in these games causes children to start seeing their world in a ‘more aggressive way,’ with children being more apt to expect others to behave aggressively toward them; kids who often play violent video games are also more likely to think that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems.

Study co-author Craig Anderson, director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University, stated that playing violent video games “changes a child’s or adolescent’s personality” in some respects.

Given the horrible acts of violence on school grounds, in which children globally have engaged in recent years, particularly in the United States, it’s logical that researchers would try to determine if and how playing violent video games affects children. More than 90 percent of American school-age kids play video games, according to statistics. Many of these games depict violence as being fun, and devoid of negative consequences.

Anderson added that parents shouldn’t panic based on the results of the study; playing some violent video games is not likely to turn a kid with few other risk factors into a bully or a thug; but violent gaming should be viewed as a factor that encourages violent thinking and behavior, especially in children who have other risk factors, such as living with parents who engage in outward aggressive behavior, or living in a violent neighborhood.

The children who participated in the study came from six primary and six secondary schools in Singapore. All were between the ages of 8 and 17; close to three-quarters were boys.

Researchers surveyed the students annually for three years; children were asked about the amount of time that they spent playing video gamers and the nature of their favorite games. Children were also asked to discuss their feelings of empathy and aggression, and they were asked about any aggressive behaviors in which they had engaged. Children were also asked if they thought it was okay to respond to some situations by hitting someone, whether they thought about hurting any peers, and whether it bothered them to see someone who was upset. By sorting through the children’s answers, and measuring these against violent video game habits, researchers determined that during the three-year period, children who played a lot of violent video games were also more likely to behave in aggressive ways.

The investigators found that violent video gaming had a lasting increase in aggressive thinking, which included more aggressive fantasies, and a growing tendency to believe that others had hostile motives.

The changing attitudes linked to heavy exposure to violent video games occurred in both girls and boys; the changes were independent of a child’s initial level of aggression. Having feelings of empathy did not lessen the link between violent gaming and aggressiveness, and similar changes in perception were seen in all age groups.

Previous studies had found that playing violent video games changes attitudes and possibly leads gamers of all ages to behave more aggressively.

Study results were published online recently in Pediatrics, a journal of the American Medical Association.

By Lisa Pecos

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