Aggression and Violent Media: Playing Video Games May Lead to More Violence Than Watching TV

By Wagner, Cynthia G. | The Futurist, July-August 2004 | Go to article overview

Aggression and Violent Media: Playing Video Games May Lead to More Violence Than Watching TV


Wagner, Cynthia G., The Futurist


Young people are now spending more time playing video games than watching television. For parents and educators concerned with children's exposure to violence, this is not necessarily good news.

A new Michigan State University survey of youths from grade five through university level found that all are spending as much or more time playing games as watching television, and that boys spend about twice as much time playing video games as girls do.

But the violent content of those games, particularly those favored by males, is of growing concern to families, schools, and policy makers. Gaming is participatory while television viewing is passive, so the risk may be greater that exposure to violent games will result in violent behavior, suggests a recent study led by psychologist Craig A. Anderson of Iowa State University.

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"The impact of exposure to violent video games has not been studied as extensively as the impact of exposure to TV or movie violence," the researchers write in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. "However, on the whole, the results reported for video games to date are very similar to those obtained in the investigations of TV and movie violence."

Among the effects of violent game playing are increases in physiological arousal and physically aggressive behavior, such as hitting, kicking, and pulling clothes or hair. Studies also have found a reduction in helpful behavior among youths exposed to violent video games.

Males tend to prefer action-oriented video games involving shooting, fighting, sports, action adventure, fantasy role-playing, and strategy, according to the Michigan State survey. Females prefer classic board games, trivia quizzes, puzzles, and arcade games.

Electronic game playing gets young people involved with technologies and opens up opportunities in high-paying tech careers, notes communications professor Bradley Greenberg of Michigan State. …

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