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Violent video games and child aggression

Survey finds 75 percent of parents think violent video games contribute to actual violence.

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor Jan 16, 2013 9:40PM

Little more than one month has passed since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and the world still grieves for the 26 lives lost.

As the community of Newtown and the nation struggle to make sense of the devastation, gun control, mental health issues and violent video games have all been called into question. Groups like Sandy Hook Promise call for a ‘national conversation’ and President Obama is rolling out plans to curb gun violence, but the search for solutions on how to avoid a repeat incident remains.

Photo: Image Source/Getty ImagesIn the days following the shooting, details unfolded surrounding Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old Newtown shooter, his “strange” behavior and “obsession” with violent video games kept 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?

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A new survey from Common Sense Media found that 75 percent of parents think violent video games contribute to actual violence. 1,050 people were surveyed, and 89 percent of them say violence in video games is a problem. (45 percent say it's a major problem; 44 percent say it's a minor problem.)

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"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."

News: Gun group: Our industry didn't cause Newtown

Jason Schreier, Editor of Kotaku, the Gamer's Guide challenges the Common Sense Media survey findings and the association between violent video game use and violence.

Bing: How to tell if your child is emotionally disturbed

“There have been no scientific studies that connect violent video games to violence,” he wrote on the site.  “There have been studies that connect violent video games to aggression (more on that in the near future), but there is absolutely zero evidence, according to leading researchers in this field, that links violent video games to violent crime in any way.”

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Photo: Image Source/Getty Images

Jan 17, 2013 6:58PM

Yes violent video games absolutely influence behavior and emotions. Billion or trillion dollar entertainment businesses around the world have been successfully doing it .Anyone who says anything contrary to that is lying. When you see a sad movie ...you get emotionally sad. When you see a scary movie ...you get scared and jumpy with the music and the scene. You laugh when something is funny even if it's not real or ridiculous. You go to an amusement park and get scared or have numerous visual scenes which cause an emotional reaction. Your mind and your emotions react to whatever visuals or sounds even when you know you are sitting safely in a building. Yet the visual settings and the seating movements and sounds cause you to experience an emotional reaction to what you are subjected to. How about a song it too influences us.  

Video games absolutely desensitize children over and over again because they play games that cause violent bloody deaths to opponents. While they jab with a button or joystick at the opponent you hear the loser painfully screaming in agony and visual pain. How can anyone rationally say it doesn’t affect them? Have you not ever seen something so gory that it stays with you? Well then how can anyone say that constantly seeing violence doesn’t desensitize you?

 I agree there are negligent and very evil people who are miserable lousy parents. These people became parents only because they were fertile not because they were responsible or caring. But that is just one additional component instilling a distortion in the minds of the players decreasing their humanity.  Violence and/or immorality are a common ingredient in video games that annihilates any concept to have a standard of human conduct.

Jan 17, 2013 6:58PM
Certainly the video games are a cause of vilolence. It used to be on tv shows and movies, the bad alays lost, the bad was always wrong, the good people always won the battle between good and simple evil. Now the evil is glorified, the bad /evil is made to be cool because of the level of ugliness and meaness, the level of killing and killing in many ways.......all this is portrayed as cool.........the more the evil is worse all the better.....Don't like being told it is wrong.....just pick up a gun.....or weapon......and make it the way you want it t be......unfortunately....many choose the evil way, because it is too hard to try ...the right way.
Jan 17, 2013 6:58PM
Interesting.    Violent video games cause violence, yet in the last 20 years violent crimes have gone down. Does anybody remember what console games looked like 20 years ago? To say "comparitively crude and unrealistic" is a massive understatement.  This was even before the Nintendo 64.

This is the same kneejerk reactionism that led to the Comics Code Authority crap in the 50's.  Look, a better way of enforcing sales of M rated games to kids should be in place.  But they ARE rated and the parents CAN see this!  They need to be more involved.  If you want to look somewhere start with the parents.
Jan 17, 2013 6:57PM
PLEASE! stop pointing your fingers at everything else and stand up. maybe we should start taking an accounting of the parents whose children are accused of acts of violence! if we would start holding them responsible, they might get involved with their kids. maybe we should put those parents in jail if their kids get into trouble, after all, they did raise them.
Jan 17, 2013 6:57PM
Violent games (plus - movies, cartons, advertising, news reports, etc) do not encourage crime, but they do 'stimulant' images that effect thinking and the outcome of what is right and what is wrong.  Violence (the killing and mistreatment of others) is glamorized and portrayed to be 'accepted' as a way of life.  If your not violent, then you are more likely to be 'rude', nasty, insulting, etc., towards others because movies, cartons, etc., have shown that these methods get you something.  Your rewarded for bad behavior and if that works maybe 'threatening' someone, or even killing them will get you more.
Jan 17, 2013 6:57PM

"shockingly violent fantasy war game called Dynasty Warriors"?? Are you serious? Check the ESRB ratings. It's rated T for Teens. It's loosely based on historical figures in ancient China. There's no blood, people just blink and disappear when killed. There are no guns in this game. It's swords and soldiers, not blood and guts. Why not just accept the fact that a mentallyt disturbed individual had access to guns that his mother should have done better at keeping from him? At what point are we going to start holding individuals accountable instead of blaming everything and anything around them?


I've been playing games since Pong. So have millions of other people. Last I checked, we aren't all murderers. I don't think Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer ever played call of Duty.

Jan 17, 2013 6:56PM
Maybe this has been mentioned...but does tv or gaming influence people, Superbowl ads costing millions seems to say that it does...just sayin'
Jan 17, 2013 6:56PM
I have played video games for over 20 years. Specifically, first-person shooter games exclusively since 2001. I do not own a firearm, nor do I ever intend to own a firearm. I have never committed a violent act, nor do I ever intend to commit a violent act against innocent people. Usually, I get a sandwich after I play video games. 

There is no correlation between what this kid did and video games. Attempting to blame anyone or anything besides the lack of parenting, is irresponsible and blatantly ignores the true root cause. Specifically, not recognizing/ignoring the mental health malady this kid had to have been displaying in the home is why this happened. 

Mental health issues + access to firearms = potential for tragedy. You remove either from this equation and there is no issue. This has been a consistent theme in all of these types if incidents. Video games, or any other hobbies or habits are NOT why he committed this heinous crime. 
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