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Disputed Study Claims 'Conclusive Evidence' Of Game/Violence Link

Disputed Study Claims 'Conclusive Evidence' Of Game/Violence Link

November 4, 2008 | By David Jenkins

November 4, 2008 | By David Jenkins
More: Console/PC, Serious

A new study led by Iowa State University has concluded that violent video games do have a negative effect on children, with test cases examined in both the U.S. and Japan.

Although previous studies have proven inconclusive or negative in terms of the harmful effects of video games on children, the new study claims to be unambiguous in its findings. The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, is a combination of three separate studies: two from Japan and one from the U.S.

In particular, the study looked at the effect of violent games over time, with findings showing increased physical aggression continuing for months afterwards in some children. The study also showed little variation in results between Japanese and American children, despite the reduced levels of crime and violence in Japanese society.

Speaking to the Washington Post, lead author Craig A. Anderson commented: When you find consistent effects across two very different cultures, you're looking at a pretty powerful phenomenon. One can no longer claim this is somehow a uniquely American phenomenon. This is a general phenomenon that occurs across cultures."

"We now have conclusive evidence that playing violent video games has harmful effects on children and adolescents," added Anderson.

The U.S. study examined 364 children aged between 9 to 12 in Minnesota and found an increased likelihood of physical aggressiveness up to five or six months after playing violent games. The Japanese research studied 1,200 children aged 12 to 18.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is now in the process of revising its recommendations on media violence, as a result of the study. A new statement is expected in four to six months, but the academy already recommends limiting screen time -- including television, computers, and video games -- to one to two hours a day.

[UPDATE: Website GamePolitics has pointed out a letter to Pediatrics by Christopher Ferguson, a researcher at Texas A&M International University, which notes:

"The authors fail to control for relevant 'third' variables that could easily explain the weak correlations that they find. Family violence exposure for instance, peer group influences, certainly genetic influences on aggressive behavior are just a few relevant variables that ought either be controlled or at minimum acknowledged as alternate causal agents for a (very small) link between video games and aggression."

In addition, the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) has issued a statement on the survey, which has president Hal Halpin commenting as follows:

"For the better part of the past decade we -- game consumers, makers, sellers and creators -- have been waiting for the results of an unbiased, longitudinal and comprehensive study to be done which will inform us about the potential harmful effects of entertainment products on our children. Unfortunately, with the report published in the latest issue of Pediatrics, we remain wanting.

One of the ways in which our stance is likely very different from others in the discussion on the subject is that the ECA would encourage more and better research on the matter.

The problem has been, and apparently continues to be, that the agenda of the researchers supersedes our want and need for inclusiveness of all media... not just games -- for the overtly sensationalistic spin that will inevitably be employed -- to the exclusion of music and movies. We remain optimistic that longitudinal research that is truly comprehensive, objective, and inclusive will be performed and shared, but sadly that day has not yet come."]

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