Research Finds Aggression Caused By Time Spent Playing Video Games, Not Their Content

Ever since video games became a big part of modern culture, especially with younger generations, experts have tried to find out what effects they have on children. Early on it was posited that violent video games specifically were the source of violence in children. In more recent years this has been dismissed as a mixup of correlation and causation.

But video games do have effects on children, and the question still remained as to whether the content had something to do with it. Some video games are intensely violent and graphic, which some theorized could desensitize children to violence and even promote that type of behavior. Experts also studied behaviors like hyperactivity, difficulty focusing and addiction. Further, a large point of contention was just how much video games influenced these behaviors; while surely they were not the only factor, they must have had some influence.

Recent research has found that the actual issue may be how much time is spent playing video games, and not the games themselves.

Medical Daily looked at research that focused on 217 teenagers with a mostly even split of boys and girls. The research found that the longer the teens spent playing games, the more likely it was that they would develop problems like hyperactivity as well as difficulties in school.

“The results showed the kids who played video games the most each day were the ones likely to develop behavioral problems, including hyperactivity, as well as struggle in school. But even then, study author Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, said the ‘observed behaviors were very small in magnitude, suggesting only a minor relationship at best and that games do not have as large an impact as some parents and practitioners worry.'”

The study seemed to find that the impact of video games on negative behaviors and problems was minimal, even when the teens played three or more hours of games per day.

To that effect, the study also revealed some good news. The study’s co-author, Allison Fine Mishkin, explained that teens who played games for less than an hour fared better than teens who didn’t play games at all.

“Individuals who regularly played less than an hour a day of any type of game were actually less likely than their non-playing peers to fight with or bully peers and were rated as better behaved by their teachers. This suggests that, in small doses, video games are a valuable and valid form of play which we do not need to fear.”

Another pair of studies found that a rise in violent video game playing has coincided with a drop in youth violence.

It is still fair to point out that violence in media can have some negative effects. Many experts do point out an increase in aggression in children who play violent video games, but they are quick to point out that there is a difference between violence and aggression, as the two are often linked. Brad Bushman from Ohio State University asked 371 media psychologists and communication scientists about whether there was a consensus on video games and aggression, and the results came back heavily one sided.

“That means that among researchers who have an opinion, eight out of 10 agree that violent games increase aggression. That’s hardly a controversy. With the general consensus about the harmful effects of media violence, it may seem surprising that some people still question the effects of violent media on aggression. One important reason is that people don’t distinguish between aggression and violence.”

Video games can still be used for nefarious purposes, but this speaks more to the player than the game. So far it sounds like gamers are still safe from much of the controversy — so long as they play in moderation.

[Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images]