New Study: Video Games Do Not Increase Teen Violence

August 30th, 2013

Censors often argue that violent video games should be banned or restricted, claiming that vulnerable children will be driven to commit acts of violence after playing them. Whenever a mass shooter strikes, the media inevitably tries to connect the shooting itself to violent content that the individual might have consumed throughout daily life. However, it is rarely noted that the vast majority of youths play violent video games.

Science 2.0 is reporting on a new study by the Journal of Youth and Adolescence which found no link between violent video games and increased bullying or delinquency among teens with clinically-elevated mental health issues. Furthermore, in some cases, game play led to a reduction in aggressive tendencies. Time and time again, scientific studies are disproving the theories used to justify censorship.

Violent Content Has Always Existed

The Bible, Romeo and Juliet, and nightly news programs contain violent content. Most television shows, Hollywood films, and books are littered with acts of brutality. The world is a dangerous place, and artistic media tends to reflect that.

If exposure to violent media caused teen violence, schools throughout human history would have been war zones, with Bible and Shakespeare reading teens going on relentless rampages against their classmates. However, the reality is that individuals are not hypnotized and controlled by the media that they consume. Violent themes have always existed in history lessons, news reports, and virtually all types of fictional content, and everyone in society is, always has been, and always will be exposed to it.

Catharsis Reduces Violence

For many, violent video game sessions are a way to blow off steam. Stress can build up and cause aggressive tendencies, and the new above-cited study by the Journal of Youth and Adolescence points out that some teens with mental health issues actually cut back on bullying and other forms of aggressive behavior after gaming sessions. Millions of non-violent people go on virtual rampages on games like Grand Theft Auto without ever committing a real-world act of violence.

Stetson University psychologist Christopher Ferguson, one of the authors of the study, said, “We found no evidence that violent video games increase bullying or delinquent behavior among vulnerable youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms.” It’s important to note that this is specifically a study on teens with mental health issues, and, even in these cases, only a slight decrease in violent tendencies could be noted in the data.

Censors misunderstand the fundamental premise that individuals are responsible for their own behavior. Video games, firearms, and other scapegoats are often blamed for crimes in which the only guilty party is the offender. In fact, the Journal of Youth and Adolescence’s study seems to indicate that violent video games may reduce aggressive tendencies among high-risk teens, and researchers should explore that possibility further.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

is a singer for the experimental mathcore band , a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.