Longitudinal studies in the US and Japan have linked violent video game use to aggressive behavior in children and teens.
Scientists tested for the association in three cohorts: US children aged 9-12, Japanese children aged 12-15, and Japanese children aged 13-18. They published their findings in last week’s issue of Pediatrics.
The investigators found that habitual video gaming early in the school year predicted either getting into a fight at school or being cited by a peer or a teacher for physically aggressive behavior 5-6 months later. The findings held firm after the scientists accounted for gender and a previous history of aggressive behavior. The effect was similar for the US and Japanese youth and was more pronounced in younger children.
“When you find consistent effects across two very different cultures, you’re looking at a pretty powerful phenomenon,” lead author Craig Anderson told the Washington Post. “One can no longer claim this is somehow a uniquely American phenomenon. This is a general phenomenon that occurs across cultures.”
But Anderson hastened to add that violent video game exposure occurs in a larger context of a child’s life. “A healthy, normal, nonviolent child or adolescent who has no other risk factors for high aggression or violence is not going to become a school shooter simply because they play 5 hours or 10 hours a week of these violent video games,” he told the Post.
Extremely violent behavior usually occurs “when there is a convergence of multiple risk factors” such as gang involvement, substance abuse, poverty, and antisocial peers or parents, he added.