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Violent video games and child aggression

Do children become more aggressive after playing video games or are aggressive kids more attracted to violent videos?

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor Dec 17, 2012 8:38PM

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Dec. 14 has left the world shocked and heartbroken. In the wake of 26 deaths, including 20 children, there is a desperate search for answers.

Photo: Image Source/Getty ImagesAs the community of Newtown and the nation try to make sense of why an individual would carry out such devastation, gun control, mental health issues and violent video games have all been called into question.

As details unfold surrounding Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old Newtown shooter, his “strange” behavior and “obsession” with violent video games keeps surfacing. Lanza lived at his mother's colonial-style mansion, where he had two of the house's four bedrooms – one for himself and the other for the computer where he played violent video games, reports the The Telegraph.

According to express.co.uk, Lanza's favorite video game was said to be a shockingly violent fantasy war game called Dynasty Warriors. Was it a game or easy access to a deadly arsenal of guns – he reportedly learned how to shoot after his mother took him to local ranges - that inspired Lanza to carry out the deadly massacre?

The topic of virtual violence resulting in real life aggression has long been controversial. Are these games simply a fun hobby, or for children who may already be mentally or emotionally unstable, do these games have the ability to push someone over the edge?

A study by Dr. Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D., of Iowa State University in Ames looked at how children and teen's video game habits at one time related to their behavior three to six months later, reports CNN.com.

Bing: The latest developments in the Connecticut school shooting.

In every group, children who were exposed to more video game violence did become more aggressive over time than their peers who had less exposure, cites the study. This was true even after the researchers took into account how aggressive the children were at the beginning of the study – a strong predictor of future bad behavior, reports CNN.com.

The findings are “pretty good evidence” that violent video games do indeed cause aggressive behavior, Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann, director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor was quoted on CNN.com.

"There is a real harm in children having exposure to violence, such as playing violent video games," says Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Debra Kissen, Ph.D., M.H.S.A. of Chicago, IL. "By playing violent video games, children (and adults) become desensitized to this content and therefore experience less of an emotional reaction to violence," says Kissen. "Therefore, violent behavior becomes normalized and becomes a more reasonable alternative when experiencing a conflict."

Other researchers have challenged the association between violent video game use and school shootings, saying that most of the young perpetrators had personality traits, which were apparent before the shootings and predisposed them to violence, reports the Harvard Mental Health Letter. These factors make it more difficult to accept the playing of violent games as an independent risk factor.  

Do you think that violent video games trigger aggressive behavior in kids? Why or why not?

Photo: Image Source/Getty Images

Bing: How to tell if your child is emotionally disturbed

More from MSN Living:
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Dec 21, 2012 11:49PM
This is ridiculous, I let my kids play video games, and they know its only fun to do because its a video game and not real. My children have never had issues with violence and yet they know quite a few children there are or older who don't play many or any games at all and have problems with hitting scratching and biting. I talk to my kids about what they see and what happens on the tv whether it is a movie or a game. The know most of the things they see on the tv belong there and not in real life.  Don't blame video games, or movies or peoples actions. Blame their guardian for not teaching them about what's right and wrong. Also this women knew her son wasn't mentally stable, she shouldn't of had unsecured guns in her home. 
Dec 21, 2012 11:47PM

  First all, Mental Health should be the focus


Second of all, Video games have an ESRB rating and it boggles my mind when a parent buys their kid a game rated M.  You expose any child to violence whether it is in books, or on the televison or in movies that are meant for adults, the answer is always yes.  Parents should educate themselves on what their children are interested in...

Dec 21, 2012 11:46PM
Gun control, video games, music, etc I will say it once I will probably say it for the rest of our lives.  The Problem is CRAZY!!! not everything else...blaming something else is a lot easier than working with people so they don't do things like this.  I would say games and music and tv can enhance aggression, but not to the point of killing people.  The morality of a person already has to be gone and that stems deeper than any game, tv show, and music. 

The Problem is helping people who need help watch for the red flags, discipline your children, don't be their friend, don't look the other way, don't deny that everything is ok!  DO your part!!! it begins at home!!!! it will not solve the problem 100%, but it will make things better!

Dec 21, 2012 11:46PM
oh my Christ. I burst out laughing when they said shockingly violent game called Dynasty warriors!! do these pricks even research games? Koei Entertainment must be bursting with laughter!
Dec 21, 2012 11:45PM

It doesn't take a genius to figure this one out.  Of COURSE violent tv, movies and games  promote violence.  What other reason would someone want to sit at a tv all day than to watch blood shed?  Because they see so much of it, there is a craving for more and more.

I personally can not watch a movie or tv show where there is violence and blood shed.  It actually makes me sick to my stomach....literally, not figuratively.

Dec 21, 2012 11:45PM

For those who say that the violent video games and the constant barrage of violent T.V. shows featuring, and even glorifying guns, those who feel that it's so cool to watch stunningly beautiful women, impeccably dressed, pull an automatic weapon from their garter belt and proceed to annihilate the "Bad guys", those of you who think that because you've played these games, and haven't killed anyone as a result. You say that this type of thing has no effect on the behavior and development of children and youth. If you're one of those, then pray tell me why you take such drastic measures to shield your child(ren) from pornographic and sexually explicit materials found on the internet, store shelves, in magazines etc. Why worry when you see women bound and gagged being ravished by a man or group of men? Why should there be ANY CONCERN about violence against women. You're the educated ones, NOT the loonies, but you're scared shi*less about your kids watching, witnessing and participating in this kind of behavior. WHY...WHY....WHY???? I'D APPRECIATE SOME CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK. Let's adopt a slogan, create a new "meme"  Can we all agree that we should call it.........."LET THEM WATCH PORN". (Won't have any effect on their development or their attitudes towards women). After all, many of you grew up watching porn and have never beaten a woman yet.

Dec 21, 2012 11:44PM
I'm 69 and love playing  Resident Evil 4.  Violent and gory - sure.  But FUN!  Also have RE5 and RE6 - neither as good.   RE4 is about the only game I play, even though I have MANY other games, not only for my PS3, but also (almost) all the other platforms, including XBOX 360 (don't like HALO), XBox, GameCube, SNES, Sega, Sega Genesis, WII, Atari (of course!)  $179.99 at Penney's a LONG time ago, and even Dreamcast.  I'm not at all violent, even though I was in the U.S. Army during 'Nam, and while not exactly a Pacifist, I abhor war.  My grandfather was an infantryman in WWI and he hated having to be forced to fight soldiers on the other side, who in all reality felt the same way he did, and for what - just to fill the pockets of the already rich and powerful.  And the same is true of all wars - be it WWII, Korea, the Spanish-American war, and especially our Civil War - what a senseless taking of lives.  I tell my grandkids - BE NICE!  Kids should NOT be playing MA rated games, nor watching all the gore and sex on TV and in movies - poor parental supervision and/or control!  My take, like others, is not that video games promote violence (my case and my grandkids case) but that "insanity" is the root cause of violence and people of that ilk will groove on guns; shooting; gory movies, TV and games.
Dec 21, 2012 11:44PM
He killed his family first. Why don't we look there for problems.  Right, a video game made people more violent.  People have been shot over games of Madden which is football.  Come on man!!!
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