Research in Japan and the U.S. has found that kids ages 12-18 that play violent video games display aggressive behavior over time. Researchers used three criteria: the level of violence in their video games; how often they played them; and the time spent playing them each week.
While Japanese children only rated their own physical aggression, researchers accounted reports from peers and teachers for U.S. children, as well. Factoring all three criteria, children who were exposed to more violent video games showed more aggression than their peers who were not.
Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann, director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, says the findings are "pretty good evidence" that violent video games do cause aggressive behavior.
Another expert argues that violence is not necessarily the problem. Rather, its context and objective of that said violence, as well as what it incites people to do, says Dr. Cheryl K. Olson, co-director of the Center for Mental Health and the Media at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
As Dr. David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, a Minneapolis-based non-profit states, "It doesn't necessarily mean that because a kid plays a violent video game they're immediately going to go out and beat somebody up."
Dr. Huesmann believes that violence can desensitize a person to where it loses all emotional impact, making it easier to personally engage in violence. It can also inspire imitation.
However, it is something to think about next time little 10 year old Tommy asks to play Gears of War 2. Think: Age appropriate.