Do violent video games cause children to become more aggressive? There is no real answer – at least not one that's been proved scientifically, says the Christian Science Monitor. The newspaper quotes Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner in their new book, “Grand Theft Childhood.” who say that much of the information in the popular press about the effects of violent video games is wrong. The husband and wife team, who direct the Center for Mental Health and Media at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Kutner and Olson conducted a $1.5 million study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice that looked at the effects of violent video games on 1,200 middle-school-age children.
“Looking at violent behavior is not a simplistic thing. There is no one thing that is going to cause a child to become violent,” says Kathryn Seifert of Salisbury, Md., a forensic psychologist and an expert in assessing and treating children who are at risk of becoming violent. Seifert would like to see a study incorporating children who have been suspended from school or who are in detention centers or on the streets – kids who are more likely to become violent than children who are still in school. The Kutner-Olson research did show links between 12- to 14-year-olds who almost exclusively played rated-M (for mature) games and a much more common schoolyard problem: bullying. (This was among both boys and girls who played more than 15 hours a week, not the norm.) Middle-schoolers in this category also were more likely to get into fights, destroy property, and argue with their teachers.