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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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Mar 23, 2013 9:57PM
I have been playing violent video games for many years. My age is over 60. I can tell you without any doubt that violent video games does desensitize children to violence. I don't understand why parents continue to purchase these game for their young children when the packaging clearly states only for over 17 years of age. If these parents would put on a headset and hear how some of the older kids and grown men talk to their young children they would be horrified. They call them some of the most vile names and speak to them using some of the worst language you could possibly imagine. It's only because they are young kids and they get frustrated with them for acting like kids. I personally think parents that allow their children under 17 to play these games should be prosecuted for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Jan 17, 2013 5:48PM

Ok ,So some of you are saying that a person sitting in front of a 45" HD or a 3D tv with surround sound and INTERACTIVELY changing the game and having the ability to choose weapons' and opponents' for 4,6,or 8 hours a day killing the enemy against other players that are real people with very good real life graphics has no effect on a person??

  Look up brain washing in a dictionary!!

 Now factor in a young person that has issues and or in on meds! not to mention a bad home life with questionable parents with poor morals!! 

  I never wanted to hurt anyone after playing space invaders or pac man !!!  But then they were not INTERACTIVE were they !! 

Jan 17, 2013 3:03PM
I have actually seen the effects of "call to duty" on my 27 yr. old neighbor where his family had to come and talk him down and that was after playing for 6 hrs. as he grew very violent to his wife. Yes week minds are affected and it seems America has way too many that dictate something needs to be done on the entertainment side such as imposing XXX rating on all movies/games that show gun violence/tactics.
Hollywood needs to pay up for there role in the expoytation of violence.
Jan 17, 2013 2:42PM
I am on both sides, and yes that is possible. Voilent games do cause issues when not monitored or used as as they were meant. They rating on them, mostly ignored by kids AND parents. If you have a child that is already compromised in behavior and sit him in front of a game for hours on end they lose track of whats real. Do you know a child or adult that lives for the game ignoring life? Thats a problem and is often ignored. But don't blame the child or the game industry, blame the parent or room mate or spouse that ignores a growing problem. My children are grown and I have grandchildren and notice more and more how children are being parented these days. In my day we had latch key kids because the parents worked, but they got attention when the parents got home, we still did dinner around a central table. Now I see kids ignored, no dinner hour, just fast food in front of the TV. No skills in schooling because they do not care. There is a reason schools have 'No Tolerance' on so many issues now, voilence has increased. Kids are having kids. The problem is not with the games, nor with the weapons. Its with the degeneration of the family unit, social and moral skills. Parenting is not only watching your own children but your neighbors children and doing something about a problem when you see it, not ignoring it or thinking it will go away.
Jan 17, 2013 2:05PM

So if video games influence kids to be violent then watching all the gays on TV are going to make them homosexual?  All the stupid (and I mean STUPID) so-called comedy sitcoms are going to make them even stupider?  Oh, and watching the go nowhere politics in D.C. might show them how being selfish is the right road to success.


Jan 17, 2013 12:41PM
 ridiculous.. there was no video games music tv or movies to blame when the first gave man killed another cave man. ppl fought wars before there was guns.
Jan 17, 2013 8:12AM

Actually the cause of violent behavior is milk - people that lean toward aggressive behavior were given milk to drink at least one meal a day as children. Instead of pointing fingers at external stimuli maybe it would be better to look for signs of inappropriate aggression through mental health resources.


I'm 63 and play World of Warcraft  - I interact with any number of players during gameplay and play both PvP and PvE. For non-gamers that's player vs player and Player vs Encounter. That's where the players aggression starts and ends - the game is cathartic and serves to channel and end aggression within the game.


Pretty obvious the "professionals" don't play video games.

Jan 17, 2013 7:18AM

I recommend Bowling For Columbine, by Micheal Moore.  I know you all think he's a commie nut, but I disagree.  He is also a lifetime member of the NRA.  He shows that there are countries around the world who have as many guns per capita, as violent entertainment, and as much of just about anything you can blame for our despicable performance compared to the rest of them.


Spoiler alert.  He finds that the reason is probably fear.  Our for profit new organizations live on it.  If it bleeds, it leads.  I am guilty of not doing my research personally, but we can put a date on the time that news changed from a public service to a public shame.  I will see if I can find a correlation between the violence rate before an after.  I invite you to do the same.

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