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Violent Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior in Children


An Iowa State University professor says he has proved conclusively that exposure to violent video games makes children more aggressive. He reached this conclusion after analyzing 130 reports involving more than 130,000 individuals.

The eight-person investigative team, which included leading video game researchers, university professors, and two graduate students, found that the effects of violent video games are significant in males and females, in all age groups (the subjects were in elementary school through college undergraduate level), and in both Eastern and Western cultures.

According to Craig Anderson, the Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University who lead the study and who has spent much of his career studying the impact of violent video games on children, such exposure “increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior in both short-term and long-term contexts.” It also increases aggressive thinking while decreasing prosocial behavior and empathy.

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Anderson, who is also director of Iowa State’s Center for the Study of Violence, points out that exposure to violent video games is a “risk factor that’s easy for an individual parent to deal with—at least, easier than changing most other known risk factors for aggression and violence, such as poverty or one’s genetic structure.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement on media violence in the November 2009 issue of Pediatrics. The AAP stated that “exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games, represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents.” It goes on to note that “media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.”

The AAP statement also urges pediatricians and other child health care providers to act as advocates for, among other things, a “safer media environment for children by encouraging media literacy, more thoughtful and proactive use of media by children and their parents, more responsible portrayal of violence by media producers.”

Anderson and his fellow researchers believe their study has an important role in public policy debates. They say it is time to move beyond the question of “Are there real and serious effects?” to a more constructive query, such as “How do we make it easier for parents—within the limits of culture, society and law—to provide a healthier childhood for their kids?” How do parents, health care professionals, media producers, and educators tackle the very real problem of violent video games causing aggressive behavior in children?

American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement
Iowa State University press release, March 1, 2010
This page is updated on May 18.