Earlier this week, an 8-year-old in Louisiana shot and killed his grandmother. The incident has sparked new flames in the ongoing U.S. gun control debate, but the familiar scapegoat of violence in video games is also being connected to the murder.
With the release of Grand Theft Auto V only weeks away, discussions of the impact of video games on minors will certainly be in the news for months to come. A study published this year, however, is contradicting common assumptions about violent video games.
The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, shows that violent video games do not cause teens to become aggressive. Even those teens dubbed “vulnerable” in the study (those with symptoms of attention deficit disorder or depression) were not made aggressive. In fact, the study found that violent video games had a “slight calming effect” on vulnerable teens.
“We found no evidence that violent video games increase bullying or delinquent behavior among vulnerable youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms,” said Christopher Ferguson, a co-author of the study and a Psychology professor at Stetson University.
The study looked at 377 vulnerable children who averaged 13 years old. Those children who played violent video games were not seen to exhibit criminal or bullying behavior over that of their non-video game playing peers. A “cathartic” effect was even seen in some children, with aggression and bullying behavior dropping in those who played violent video games.
The study’s authors have called for a change in the perception of violent video games, especially with regards to at-risk youth.
“Statistically speaking it would actually be more unusual if a youth delinquent or shooter did not play violent video games, given that the majority of youth and young men play such games at least occasionally,” said Ferguson.
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