MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In the wake of this weekend’s massacres, video games have become a frequent target for politicians.
On Monday, President Trump said, “We must stop glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.”
It’s a discussion that’s been going on for decades. During the mid-90s, lawmakers from both parties held hearings about violent video games and their potential effect on children. After the 1999 Columbine shootings, Republicans and Democrats came together again to address the topic through another round of hearings.
But what does the research say? Do violent video games really cause violent crimes? Good Question.
“The research doesn’t show that violent video games lead people to violence,” says Dr. Daniel Kessler, a psychologist with Allina Health. “It doesn’t state it doesn’t cause it, but it certainly doesn’t say it does.”
Within the scientific literature, there is some debate on any link between violent video and any aggression at all. While many studies have found no correlation, others have found a small effect.
“But there isn’t any evidence that aggression is long-standing, that the aggression is likely to cause significant problems or that violent behavior is a result,” Dr. Kessler says.
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors. At the time, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that violent video games do not cause young people to act aggressively.
A Pew Research Survey conducted in 2017 found 60% of Americans believe violent video games are a factor when it comes to gun violence.
Dr. Kessler points to research Vox gathered from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and Newzoo. It says that while people in countries like China and South Korea spend more money person on video games, the rate of gun deaths in those countries is lower than in the U.S.
“It’s oversimplifying a situation,” says Dr. Kessler. “It takes a very complex multi-factorial issues– what leads a person to commit acts of violence– and boils it down to if we took away the video game they wouldn’t do that and there isn’t any evidence to support that.”
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that banned the sale of video games to minors.
In his majority opinion, Justice Scalia wrote studies haven’t shown any connection between violent video games and aggression. And that if there were any effects, they were small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media like television or movies.