30 agosto 2005


[Research on violent television and films, video games, and music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts. The research base is large; diverse in methods, samples, and media genres; and consistent in overall findings.
Short-term exposure increases the likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions. Recent large-scale longitudinal studies provide converging evidence linking frequent exposure to violent media in childhood with aggression later in life, including physical assaults and spouse abuse.
This is a Common Sense Media Approach (2005). Common Sense Media is the leading non-profit organization dedicated to improving media and entertainment choices for kids and families: their goal is to provide trustworthy information on a variety of media content and to create a responsible and enjoyable media environment for everyone. “Playing violent video games is to an adolescent’s violent behavior what smoking tobacco is to lung cancer.” (American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Media Violence). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, playing violent video games accounts for a 13% to 22% increase in adolescents’ violent behavior compared to a 14% increase in lung cancer from smoking tobacco.[1]
Common Sense Media
believes that the current practice of marketing and selling graphically violent and sexually offensive video games to children poses a mental and physical health threat to their health and welfare.
Violent video games negatively affect children’s mental, physical and social well-being. A meta-analysis of over 35 research studies that included over 4000 participants, found that “playing violent video games significantly increases physiological arousal and feelings of anger or hostility, and significantly decreases pro-social helping behavior.” [2]
Further research has shown that the involvement of the player as the perpetrator of violence increased the tendency of video games to inspire violence. [3] Mature games stereotype both race and gender and often reward players for committing violent acts. Violent video games feature a number of disturbing traits. For example: [4] Violent video games have been found to increase violent adolescent behavior by 13%-22%; the most common role for women in video games is prostitutes.

{Versión en Español}

#205 Educare Categoria-Educacion

by Common Sense Media

Violent Video Games –Dangerous Lessons and Serious Consequences

Carefully documented analyses by leading research institutions and scholars have found that playing violent video games has a detrimental effect on minors. Noteworthy consequences include troubling shifts
in psychological attitudes, anti-social behavior, and physical condition. The real-world results of such changes have in many cases proven to be tragic and alarming.

Violence Begets Violence

Craig Anderson, PhD Professor and Chair of the Iowa State University Department of Psychology has studied and testified about the effects of video game violence for many years. Dr. Anderson and his colleagues have found that: [6].

  • Exposure to media violence increases both short and long term aggressive behavior.
  • Exposure to media violence increases heart rates and other sensory activities that are associated with dominant behavior.
  • People learn new aggressive behaviors and they will likely reenact them almost immediately afterward if they are in a similar situation.
  • Heavy game players become desensitized to aggression and violence.
Degradation of Women

While violent video games frequently promote negative portrayals of several societal genres, the depiction of women is particularly egregious.

  • 86% of all African American females in games are victims of violence.
  • The most common role for women in video games is prostitutes.

Video Games are More Influential Than Other Media

Dr. Jeanne B. Funk, PhD Professor and Director of Doctoral Training in Clinical Psychology at the University of Toledo, published a study in the Journal of Adolescence which found that both media and video game violence are associated with more pro-violence attitudes, but only video game playing resulted in lower empathy for the victim of violence.

Dr. Faulk suggests that the fact that the players were the perpetrators of the violence in the video games was the cause. Researchers at the University of Toledo found that video game violence has a stronger effect on kids than violence in movies does because of the interactive nature of the experience. [7]

Dr. Craig Anderson notes that “the active nature of the learning environment of the video game suggests this medium is potentially more dangerous than television and movie media.” [8]

Access to Video Games is More Prevalent and Less Supervised

According to a March 2005 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, video games are becoming as much a part of the home landscape as the television. Moreover, increasing numbers of consoles are finding their
way into less supervised areas, such as the bedroom. The study reports: [9]

  • 83% of young people have a video game console at home, with 65% having two or more.
  • About half of the young people surveyed have a video game console in their bedroom.
  • 55% have a handheld video game player.
  • Just over 20% of kids reported that their parents had any rules regarding video game use.
The Medical Community Speaks Out

At the July 26th, 2000 Congressional Public Health Summit, six leading medical associations (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Psychological Association American Medical Association, American Academy of Physician, and the American Psychiatric Association) warned of the following effects of media violence on children:

  • Increased anti-social and aggressive behavior.
  • Violence desensitization, lower levels of empathy.
  • Increased levels of fear due to perceiving the world as violent.
  • Higher tolerance and threshold for violence leading to a desire to experience more violence in both video games and real life.
  • Acceptance of violence as a way to settle conflict.

Video Game Addiction

Video games have been proven to lead to a type of addiction by increasing the amount of Dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical associated with narcotic use, released in the brain. In 1998 at Hammersmith Hospital in London, Dr. Paul Grasby performed a study that showed that playing video games triggers the release of dopamine in the brain. During the study dopamine levels doubled in the subjects’ brain when they played video games, this level of dopamine is equivalent to an injection of amphetamines or Ritalin. [10]

Dr. David Walsh, a long-time expert and founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family, reports of children playing over 43 hours a week of video games. [11]

Reduced Exposure = Reduced Violence

A study by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that reducing TV and video game consumption to under one hour per day reduces verbal aggression by 50% and physical aggression by 40% among 3rd and 4th grade children. [12]

Links Between Teen Play and Violent Crime

One of the most frightening tragedies in modern society is the new breed of teen killers. These instances of teen mass killings have shocked the world and have led many to search for the reasons behind those desperate acts. There is no conclusive evidence as to the cause, and the blame for these incidents clearly cannot be laid entirely on the shoulders of the video game industry. However, there is an equally clear link that cannot be overlooked between these killings and the violent video games that the perpetrators spent hundreds of hours playing.


  • Columbine, Colorado April 19, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 15 people, wounded 23 and then took their own lives. Harris announced on his website that he would “make DOOM a reality” on April 19. Harris also named a shotgun “Arlene” after a character in the video game DOOM. [13] Furthermore, Harris designed a level of DOOM that mimicked Columbine High School before the shootings.

  • West Paducah, Kentucky, Michael Carneal, 14, shot and killed 3 students and wounded 5 others. He was a violent video game addict of DOOM, QUAKE, and FINAL FANTASY. Michael Breen, an attorney in the case against Carneal, stated in court: “Michael Carneal, clipped off nine shots in a 10-second period. Eight of those shots were hits. Three were head and neck shots and were kills. That is way beyond the military standard for expert marksmanship. This was a kid who had never fired a pistol in his life, but because of his obsession with computer games he had turned himself into an expert marksman.” [14]

  • Fayette, Alabama, Devon Thompson shot three police officers after being brought in under suspicion of driving a stolen car. He grabbed one of the officers’ guns, shot three men and then jumped into a police car to make his escape. This scene is eerily similar to scenes from GRAND THEFT AUTO, Thompson’s favorite video game, which rewards players for committing the crime that Thompson perpetrated. When Thompson was apprehended for the killings he stated, “Life is a video game. You’ve got to die sometime.” [15]

The video game industry has been ineffective at self-regulation

With circumstances that mirror the fox guarding the chicken coop, the current self-regulation of the industry has been ineffective at stopping under age youths from buying and playing violent and sexually explicit games designed for more mature (“M” >17) audiences. A 2004 Federal Trade Commission study reported that more than two thirds of children under 17 were able to purchase ‘M’ rated games. Furthermore, 87 percent of boys under the age of 17 have played ‘M’ rated games. [5]

While Common Sense Media respects the right of game producers to exercise their creative visions (and we also do not believe that all children who play violent games will adopt violent behavior) we advocate strongly for more stringent regulations regarding the sale and marketing of these games to minors for whom repeated play of these games poses a major public health concern.

In 1994, the video game industry created its own self-regulating body, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), which rates all video games. There are four categories:

  • E – Everyone (6 years and older),
  • T – Teen (>13 years),
  • M – Mature (>17 years),
  • AO (Adult Only).
Defined by the industry itself, these regulations are entirely voluntary and up to individual retail outlets to enforce.

How well is this self-regulating rating system working?

The National Institute for Media and the Family found that just 21 percent of retail and rental stores have policies to keep mature video games out of the hands of minors. [16]

Further, the Federal Trade Commission found that 69% of boys under 17 are able to purchase ‘M’ rated games. [17]

Additionally, the 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study reported that: [18]

  • 87% of boys under the age of 17 have played ‘M’ rated games.
  • 90% of teens say their parents never check ratings before they buy or rent a game.
  • Only 1% of teens say their parents ever stopped them from using ‘M’ rated games.
The Smoking Gun

Just as the tobacco industry was sited for targeting ‘tomorrows smokers’, the FTC recently pointed out that the video game industry is actively marketing to minors. Furthermore, sixty percent (60%) of the Mature-rated games on which the Commission focused in the study were actually targeted to youth under 17. [19]

One document found by the FTC stated:

“… [The game] has an M rating, which may discourage parents from buying the game. However, the younger the audience, the more likely they are to be influenced by TV advertising… Therefore, the recommended target audience is: Males 12-17 – Primary; Males 18-34 Secondary.” [20]

A decade ago the tobacco industry was caught and punished for similarly targeting youth: “They represent tomorrow’s cigarette business,” said Charles Tucker, R.J. Reynolds Vice President of Marketing. “As this 14 to 24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume.” [21]

Targeting of M-Rated Games to an Under-17 Audience

In order to safeguard our children from the proven effects of violent video game use, Common Sense believes there should be legislative and industry change as well as changes that parents can effect in their own homes:

  • Enact legislation at both the state and federal levels prohibiting the sale of ultra-violent and sexually offensive M-rated games to all those under the age of 17.
  • Change current marketing AdCodes so that advertising and marketing practices for video games conform to AdCodes for other proven health hazards for kids like tobacco and alcohol.
  • Distribute more detailed ratings for video games that give in-depth content information (for example, rape or violence against women receive no notice).
  • Create and implement an independent, uniform ratings system for all media, including video games.
  • Encourage parents to become involved and know what their kids are buying and playing.
  • Pay attention to the labeling – and go deeper than the summaries– to find out the exact content in games.
  • Treat video game play as a serious potential public health hazard for millions of children, similar to the treatment of alcohol and tobacco products as they relate to minors.


[1] O’Keefe, Lori. January 2002. Media exposure feeding children’s violent acts, AAP policy states. AAP News.

[2] The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. March 2005. Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds. A Kaiser Family Foundation Study.

[3] Funk, Jeanne B., Bechtoldt-Baldacci, H., Pasold, T., & Baumgardner, J. (in press). Violence Exposure in Real-life, Video Games, Television, Movies, and the Internet: Is There Desensitization? Journal of Adolescence.

[4] Anderson, Craig. March 21, 2000. Violent Video Games Increase Aggression and Violence. U.S. Senate Testimony, Hearing on The Impact of Interactive Violence on Children, Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 106th Congress, 1st Session.

[5] December 16, 2004. Gov. Blagojevich proposes bill to make Illinois first state to prohibit sale or distribution of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. Office of the Governor Press Release.

[6] Craig Anderson. op. cit.

[7] Jeanne B. Funk et al. op. cit.

[8] Sept 18, 2003. “Grand Theft Auto” Creators Sued for $100M Over Killing. The London Independent.

[9] The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. op. cit.

[10] Sanchez. August 23, 2002. Violent Video Games and Operant Conditioning: Physical and Psychological Effects. Maxwell School.

[11] National Institute on Media and the Family. www.mediaandthefamily.org.

[12] Dr. Thomas Robinson, Stanford University, Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. 2001;155:17-23

[13] Ibid., x

[14] Tompkins, Aimee. December 14, 2003. The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children. AllPsych Journal.

[15] February 15, 2005. Lawsuit Claims video games led to Fayette police deaths. Associated Press State & Local Wire.

[16] November 28, 1999. Is it all DOOM and GLOOM? Computer gaming draws devotion and fire. Some see it as a healthy outlet and a way to socialize. Others say it inspires real life violence. The Denver Post.

[17] Federal Trade Commission. 2000. Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children. A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries.

[18] The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. op. cit.

[19] Federal Trade Commission. September 11, 2000. FTC Releases Report on the Marketing of Violent Entertainment to Children.

[20] Ibid., xvii

[21] January 15, 1998. Tobacco Firm’s Ads Tried to Hook Kids. San Francisco Examiner.

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