After several years of reading contradicting reports on the effects of violent gaming on children, I've come to the conclusion that there is no real research we can trust. What can we do? Exactly what the mainstream press does - pick the one that comes to the conclusion we want! In this case, it's "Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games", by Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson, two researchers at Harvard who decided to publish their 2007 findings in a book aimed at reassuring parents that their kids won't become violent psychopaths by playing Grand Theft Auto. Why is their study better than the ones that reach opposite conclusions? Says Dr. Olson:
Until now, the most-publicised studies came from a small group of experimental psychologists, studying college students playing nonviolent or violent games for 15 minutes. It's debatable whether those studies are relevant to real children, playing self-selected games for their own reasons (not for cash or extra credit!), in social settings, over many years. But media reports and political rhetoric often ignore that distinction.
So how did the Harvard study differ? They polled over 1200 children between two states, asking them about their reasons for playing video games with an eye on how those motivations were different between different subgroups, such as children that showed signs of attention deficit disorder and depression. The findings indicate that many children see video games as a way to work out their aggression in a safe environment, or to help them feel less lonely and isolated. Poor lil guys.
The book, due out in April, also features chapters about parents themselves, as well as one chapter dedicated to explaining why all of the other studies are inaccurate, looking at how other researchers define aggressions, the games used, size of focus groups, etc.
As I said, I don't trust any of these studies at this point, but if you've got a parent worried about your game play habits or hell - even if you are a parent worried about your children's video game playing, nothing is quite as reassuring as having a big book by doctors on your beside table.
Hit the link below for a full interview with author Dr. Cheryl K. Olson at Game Couch!
Interview: Dr. Cheryl K. Olson co-author of Grand Theft Childhood [Game Couch via Game Politics]