"Long before it's in the papers"
August 27, 2013


Video games don’t stir violence in vulnerable teens, study finds

Aug. 27, 2013
Courtesy of Springer Journals
and World Science staff

Vi­o­lent vi­deo games don’t lead teenagers with symp­toms of de­pres­sion or at­ten­tion def­i­cit dis­or­der to be­come ag­gres­sive bul­lies or delin­quents, a new study in­di­cates.

On the con­tra­ry, such games ac­tu­ally had a very slight calm­ing ef­fect on youths with at­ten­tion def­i­cit symp­toms and helped re­duce their ag­gres­sive and bul­ly­ing be­hav­ior, the re­search­ers found.

In a study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Youth and Ad­o­les­cence, Chris­to­pher Fer­gu­son of Stet­son Uni­vers­ity in Flor­i­da and in­de­pend­ent U.S. re­search­er Cher­yl Ol­son as­sessed the ef­fect of games such as “Mor­tal Kom­bat,” “Halo” and “Grand Theft Au­to.”

They stud­ied 377 Amer­i­can chil­dren, on av­er­age 13 years old, from var­i­ous eth­nic groups who had “clinic­ally el­e­vat­ed” at­ten­tion def­i­cit or de­pres­sive symp­toms. The chil­dren were part of a large fed­er­ally funded proj­ect ex­am­in­ing the ef­fect of vi­deo game vi­o­lence on youths.

The news me­dia of­ten draws a link from vi­o­lent vi­deo games to school shoot­ings, the re­search­ers not­ed. Their study could­n’t as­sess the ex­ist­ence of such ex­treme ef­fects, they added, but their find­ings were in line with those of a re­cent U.S. Se­cret Serv­ice re­port link­ing more gen­er­al forms of youth vi­o­lence with ag­gres­siveness and stress rath­er than with vi­deo games.

“S­tatis­tic­ally speak­ing it would ac­tu­ally be more un­usu­al if a youth de­lin­quent or shoot­er did not play vi­o­lent vi­deogames, giv­en that the ma­jor­ity of youth and young men play such games at least oc­ca­sion­al­ly,” Fer­gu­son said.

Fer­gu­son and Ol­son not­ed a few in­stances in which vi­deo game vi­o­lence ac­tu­ally had a slight ca­thar­tic ef­fect on chil­dren with el­e­vat­ed at­ten­tion def­i­cit symp­toms and helped to re­duce their ag­gres­sive ten­den­cies and bul­ly­ing be­hav­ior.

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Violent video games don’t lead teenagers with symptoms of depression or attention deficit disorder to become aggressive bullies or delinquents, a new study indicates. On the contrary, such games actually had a very slight calming effect on youths with attention deficit symptoms and helped reduce their aggressive and bullying behavior, the researchers found. In a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University in Florida and independent U.S. researcher Cheryl Olson assessed the effect of games such as “Mortal Kombat,” “Halo” and “Grand Theft Auto.” They studied 377 American children, on average 13 years old, from various ethnic groups who had “clinically elevated” attention deficit or depressive symptoms. The children were part of a large federally funded project examining the effect of video game violence on youths. The news media often draws a link from violent video games to school shootings, the researchers noted. Their study couldn’t assess the existence of such extreme effects, they added, but their findings were in line with those of a recent U.S. Secret Service report linking more general forms of youth violence with aggressiveness and stress rather than with video games. “Statistically speaking it would actually be more unusual if a youth delinquent or shooter did not play violent video games, given that the majority of youth and young men play such games at least occasionally,” Ferguson said. Ferguson and Olson noted a few instances in which video game violence actually had a slight cathartic effect on children with elevated attention deficit symptoms and helped to reduce their aggressive tendencies and bullying behavior.