It's been a while since we've had a really good "video games make our children violent" study, and I was beginning to fear we've given up on the idea, but then the story "Violent video games linked to child aggression" showed up on CNN.com this morning and my fears were completely assuaged. The story is about a study conducted by Dr. Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D., of Iowa State University, who studied three groups of children in both the United States and Japan to gage their violence levels three to six months after playing violent video games, versus children who did not play violent video games. The results may not surprise you at all.
The study found that children who played violent video games were more aggressive than those that did not, even taking into account children who were aggressive in the first place. The odd thing is the results were determined not so much through observation, though comments from parents and teachers were taken into account, but rather by asking the children about their own aggression levels.
The three groups of students involved in the testing consisted of 181 Japanese students ages 12 to 15; 1,050 Japanese students aged 13 to 18; and 364 U.S. kids ages 9 to 12, with initial information gathered in three different ways. The U.S. students were asked their three favourite games and how often they played them. The younger Japanese group was polled on how often they played games from specific violent genres, which included adventure...probably one of the least violent genres out there. The final group of older Japanese children were gaged on how often they played versus the violence levels contained within their favourite genres.
See any massive holes in the study so far? How about relying on children for accurate, truthful answers, or the fact that they are assigning violence levels to game genres?
The only way I see we'll ever get a truly accurate report on this subject is to find a child somewhere that they have no exposure to violence in television, the news, the internet, etc., expose that child to violent video games and then see what happens. Unfortunately that child is in the 1950's, and by now is probably a scientist somewhere doing violence studies because the world is a darker, grittier place than he remembers growing up.
To CNN's credit, they do offer an alternative viewpoint in the form of one Dr. Cheryl K. Olson, co-director of the Centre for Mental Health and the Media at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Cheryl argues that the label "violent video games" is too vague, and that researchers need a strict definition of said term as well as what constitutes aggressive behaviour before any study can truly have merit.
"I think there may well be problems with some kinds of violent games for some kinds of kids," Olson said. "We may find things we should be worried about, but right now we don't know enough."
Violent video games linked to child aggression [CNN - Thanks David!]