Violent video games don't affect children's behavior

Violent video games have no effect on kids' behavior

A small new study has found that, contrary to popular belief, playing violent video games does not make kids more aggressive.

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Researchers examined the video game playing habits of 217 teens -- 110 males and 107 females -- as well as their personalities as judged by their teachers. Slightly more than half of the females had never played video games, compared to 13 percent of the males. Only 3 percent of the girls played video games for more than three hours a day, compared to 16 percent of the boys.

After adjusting for factors such as gender, the researchers found that the kind of video games the teens played appeared to have no effect.

Although playing video games in general had no effect on the teenagers' behavior, the amount of time had some effect. The 22 teens who played video games the most were more likely to exhibit hyperactivity and have behavorial problems. However, study author Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, said the effects were "quite small in magnitude."

Przybylski also said it was unclear whether kids are drawn to video games because of their personalities, or whether the games altered their personalities.

The researchers also found that there was some benefit to playing video games for a short period of time each day.

"Individuals who regularly played less than an hour a day of any type of game were actually less likely than their non-playing peers to fight with or bully peers and were rated as better behaved by their teachers," said study co-author Allison Fine Mishkin, a graduate student at Oxford Internet Institute.

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"This suggests that, in small doses, video games are a valuable and valid form of play which we do not need to fear."

The study also found that the teachers of teens who tended to play single-player games reported that those students showed lower levels of hyperactivity and conduct problems, as well as fewer peer and emotional problems. Those students also showed higher levles of activie academic engagement.

Students who played cooperative and competitive online games were judged as more emotionally stable and had better relationships with classmates.

The study was published online in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

A previous study conducted by Iowa State University researchers suggested that children learn aggressive ways of thinking and behaving from violent video games, but that it is no different than learning how to play the piano.

"If you practice over and over, you have that knowledge in your head. The fact that you haven’t played the piano in years doesn’t mean you can’t still sit down and play something," said lead author Douglas Gentile, associate professor of psychology at ISU.

"It’s the same with violent games – you practice being vigilant for enemies, practice thinking that it’s acceptable to respond aggressively to provocation, and practice becoming desensitized to the consequences of violence."

[Photo credit: Digital Media Pro / Shutterstock]

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