Video Game Violence and Teen Aggression
Most of us have heard that video games can cause teens to develop violent tendencies. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters, were big fans of a first-person shooter game called Doom. Lt. Col. David Grossman even writes in his book On Combat that “all of [the school shooters] were obsessed with media violence.”
Research seems to support this conclusion as well. A 2000 study, along with several others, found that exposure to visually violent games correlates with an increase in aggression.
Although this may seem convincing, it’s important to take this data with a grain of salt. A 2012 UK study found that although watching violent videos produced a slight (.13 point) increase in aggression, there was no correlation between video game playing and any sort of antisocial behavior.
A 2007 study of peer-reviewed research determined that publication bias was a problem with the majority of the research on the effects of video games. In fact, once adjusted for biases, there was no evidence to support the idea that violent video games increase violent behavior in teens.
These three studies contradict each other. Scientists and psychologists have yet to find a correlation between teen aggression and the use of violent video games.
When analyzing tragedy caused by teen violence, such as the Columbine incident, it’s important to keep in mind that video game violence is most likely not the worst thing kids are exposed to. Video game addiction may be a symptom of mental illness, or even a form of escapism from bullying, sexual abuse, or violence perpetuated against them.
There is simply not sufficient evidence to assume games are increasing aggression in children, let alone to peg it as a primary cause of shootings.