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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

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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!!!
Dec 21, 2012 11:43PM
Blaming it on video games are we? I guess Hitler,Bin Laden,and Jack the Ripper must have played too many violent video games then.
Dec 21, 2012 11:41PM
Historically human beings have spent the majority of their time waging war on one another.
War is the career of mankind.
Sadly this is likely to be the case going forward and it is our attraction to violence that makes this so... we thirst for blood weather we want to admit it or not.
Some children will play "cops and robbers" or "war" games if the video game outlet is removed and pretend that household implement or even their own fingers are guns while playing those games.
Each person must solve this problem for himself, within himself... no one can do it for you and you can't do it for someone else.
Sadly some people are unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality and sometimes they perpetrate horrific acts of atrocity.
We need to decide if we want them to be included in our society.
Or would we rather sacrifice the right to self defense that Nature grants to every living thing... in order to make a place in society for insane people who are not expected to ever contribute anything at all... ever.
This is not just about games and guns. The games will not go because they are just reflections of our own imaginations and the weapons (guns) will not go either because they are easily replaced and criminals will always have them.
You may think that I am arguing that we can do nothing about these massacres but, that is not the case... the massacres will continue as long as we continue to be naive about their source (us) and the fact that only security is a deterrent.   
Dec 21, 2012 11:40PM

In our house, if you cannot buy it yourself because of age restrictions, you don't get it.  We have a teenager that has social/anxiety issues, but is the complete opposite of Adam Lanza in described demeanor.  Still, his anti-social behavior feeds off the games he does play and even if it is a race of Mario Kart cut short, he sometimes has an overly aggressive reaction when told to shut it down.  I think these games do raise aggressive tendencies in people with these personalities and disorders.  But that means, as parents, we need to take time away from our distracted lives and monitor our kids.  Not blame games or guns. 


Dec 21, 2012 11:40PM

Some of the post here say Video games do no harm- They miss the point of the article and the study.  Do kids, when exposed, have the propensity for violent acts, more than those Not exposed.  YES.   A simple as it is- any exposure de-sensitises.    Did some of us play and not commit violence, YES. And we were raised with slightly more respect for human life. Children today, due to less church, civility, morals, and manners, and mostly poor parenting- are likely to be pushed over that edge more readily as thier edge is lower. If we can blame a gun, surely we can blame hours and hours of 1st person shooter practice.  

Dec 21, 2012 11:39PM
kids all over the world play action video games. including Europe, Japan, even China and the rest of the world.  These games are not causing any violent behavior in their kids or young adults.  so how can anyone in their right mind blame the games.... its rediculous.
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