A new US study suggests that teenagers who play violent video games are more likely to engage in criminal and risky behavior than those who avoid mature video games.
The study conducted by researchers at Dartmouth College tracked the video game and social habits of 5,000 randomly chosen teenagers over a four-year period. The three video games researchers specifically asked teens about were:
Researchers found that teens who admitted to playing certain violent videogames exhibited more unsafe tendencies, including smoking marijuana, consuming alcohol and committing crimes. The study also found that teens who played these games were more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior and drive recklessly,
“[The study] is important because it is the first to suggest that possible effects of violence videogames go well beyond violence to apply to substance use, risky driving and risk-taking sexual behavior,” said study co-author James Sargent.
Researchers say the uptick in risky activities may be due to the fact that the violent games are being played at an age where teens’ behaviors are very prone to influence.
“This [behavioral change] is due in part, to changes in the user’s personality, attitudes and values, specifically making them more rebellious and thrill-seeking,” the authors concluded.
While this study may serve as a reminder to parents to make good decisions when it comes to buying mature video games for their children, it falls short of proving that video games CAUSE children to become more criminal. It only states that they are more likely to engage in such activity.
For example, a 13-year-old who receives Grand Theft Auto V from their parents for Christmas may not be subjected to the same values as a child whose parents decide not to let them play the mature game. If one child can play a mature game and the other cannot, it stands to reason the same child may be able to stay out later than the other child. Again, although there is a lack of causation, I’m sure if we did a study of two groups of teens, one who had a 9:00pm curfew and the other had a midnight curfew, we’d find that the group who stays out later would engage in more risky behavior, mainly because there is ample opportunity to do so.
It’s very similar to the video game study. If parents are OK with their children playing mature video games, they may also be less concerned with their child’s after school habits or may be less aware of who their children are associating with. Again, this is not saying that all children who play mature video games have bad or uninvolved parents, it just stands to reason that if a child is allowed to regularly view this sort of behavior, they may feel that the risk of engaging in such behavior is less severe than teens who are not allowed to play such video games.
This study opens some interesting avenues for discussion, but it falls short of narrowing down causation. Until then, any number of factors could be cited for this increase in the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors.
Related source: 3 News