Frequent exposure to violent video games increases the likelihood that children and teens will engage in aggressive behavior themselves, new research indicates.
A three-year study of more than 3,000 children found that habitually playing games such as “Call of Duty” and “God of War” might alter their view of their real-world environment and peers, the researchers said.
“[Violent gaming] basically changes a child’s or adolescent’s personality in some sense, so that they start to see their world in a more aggressive way,” said study co-author Craig Anderson, director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University.
“They start to expect people to behave more aggressively toward them, and they tend to see aggressive solutions as being more appropriate for solving problems,” Anderson said.
“Playing a violent video game isn’t going to take a healthy kid who has few other risk factors and turn him into a school shooter,” he said. “But it is a risk factor that does drive the odds for aggression up significantly.”
For the study, students were surveyed annually about the time they spent playing video games and about the nature of their favorite games. In addition, the children discussed their feelings of empathy and aggression, and were asked about any past aggressive behaviors.
By stacking violent video game habits up against aggressive thought patterns and behavior, the investigators determined that during the three-year study period kids with a lot of exposure to violent video games were more likely to engage in aggressive behavior.
This link seemed to result from a lasting increase in aggressive thinking, the researchers said. That included a rise in aggressive fantasies, and a growing tendency to attribute hostile motives to others.
The study was published in the online journal JAMA Pediatrics.