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Study and Book claim Video Games don?t create Violent Kids

by on09 May 2008


“Grand Theft Childhood” book debuts

A Harvard University research team has determined that playing video games does not turn children into psychotic people or cause them to become adult super-killers, according to their research studies and a new book they have written based on their research results.

Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson are a husband and wife research team at Harvard Medical School.  They conducted a two-year study of over 1,200 middle-school aged children and focused on their attitudes toward video games.  Their study focused on talking with the children, rather than on laboratory experiments that measure aggression by making loud noises at their study subjects. They determined that playing video games is a commonplace activity among children, and that it is often intensely social.

"What we did that had rarely been done by other researchers was actually talk to the kids. It sounds bizarre but it hadn't been done. What I hope people realize is that there is no data to support the simple-minded concerns that video games cause violence," Kutner told Reuters News.

The data from their study did indicate a link between playing matured-rated games and aggressive behavior.  51 percent of boys playing M-rated games (rated for 17+ years) had been in a fight within the past year, versus 28 percent of boys playing non-M-rated games.  And for girls, 40 percent of those playing M-rated games reported having been in a fight within the past year, versus 14 percent of girls playing non-M-rated games. Cheryl Olson indicated that despite these findings, "It's still a minority of kids who play violent video games a lot and get into fights. If you want a good description of 13-year-old kids who play violent video games, it's your local soccer team."

Surprising about the study was the finding that girls really like playing mature-themed video games:  “Grand Theft Auto” was the second-most reported played game, just behind “The Sims.”  The research team stressed the need to place video games into the larger context of American popular culture.  More data is needed and more research is needed to determine whether violent video games can trigger aggression, or whether aggressive children are attracted to violent video games. Their data showed only a correlation between violent video games and fighting, not that the games were the cause of the fighting.

The Kutner-Olson team has reported their findings and views in a new book released last month entitled "Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do", which they say will reshape the debate on the effects video games have on adolescents. They theorize that video games are now being viewed by today’s parents with the same concern and fear that movies, comic books, rock and roll and television generated in parents from earlier generations.

The book urges parents to use common sense in evaluating their children’s’ behavior.  "If you have, for example, a girl who plays 15 hours a week of exclusively violent video games, I'd be very concerned because it's very unusual," Kutner said. "But for boys (the danger sign) is not playing video games at all, because it looks like for this generation, video games are a measure of social competence for boys."

Read more here.

Last modified on 09 May 2008
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