If you want to know just how twisted our politics and media have become look no further than Senator Rockefeller's bill last week asking the National Science Foundation to study the effects of video game violence after the NRA blamed the Newtown shootings on video game violence and mentioned video games that the Newtown shooter didn't play. The news media responded quickly, forcefully and with a complete disregard for the facts. ABC News reported that a research study had found no relationship between media violence and actual rates of violence. Similarly, the Christian Science Monitor claimed that scientific research had already dismissed claims of a link between violence and video games. Similarly, a PBS local station (KCTS) claimed the entire idea of video games causing violence has been completely refuted by science.
Rockefeller's idea that more research is needed, the NRA's assertion that violence has only one cause (video games) and the media claims that science hasn't made any determinations are all false. So where is the truth? That's pretty hard to find based on mainstream media reports.
The American Psychological Association, The Australian Psychological Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, a 200 page Canadian report, The International Society on Resarch on Aggression and the US National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women Final Report (2012) all concluded that violent depictions in the media including violent video games cause aggression and violence. Note the word "cause." Scientists don't use it very often unless they have proof. For example, tobacco products cause cancer. Climate change is caused by people. Is this causal research based on one or two studies as the mainstream media suggests? No, its based on more than 3,500 scientific studies.
What's the scientific principle involved? Children frequently learn how to do things through imitation. If a child over a long period of time is exposed to violent solutions that they believe are realistic, they begin to see violence as a realistic option. That's why children who witness violence in the home are at risk to become violent.
Science suggests limiting children's exposure to violence and to teach children that depictions of media violence are unrealistic. For example, one study found that a school intervention that taught children that violence on TV is not realistic reduced future bullying and aggression.
So why hasn't the media interviewed the world's leading authority on a link violence. Actually, they did. Here's a link to his CNN interview that I couldn't find on CNN's website and here's another link to his Violence Research Groups comprehensive policy statement on violence that of course includes other actions such as limiting guns and preventing individuals with mental disorders from owning or having access to them.
So why is Rockefeller asking for a new government report when this year's national advisory report and a number of major scientific organizations have already concluded that video games cause violence? Why is the NRA overstating its causal significance as they did for mental illness. The research on mental illness shows that only people who are experiencing violent delusions are more dangerous. Most mentally ill people are less violent than the general population. Why does the media downplay or attempt to refute what scientists have found to be the case.
Clearly the NRA is attempting to rally others to its cause including the video game manufacturers and mental health advocates who have long argued that forced institutionalization is a civil rights violation because the US uses a very unscientific approach to decide who gets committed. As for the Senator and the media, the same sort of false assertions were made after it became clear that smoking causes cancer, certain foods are bad for you and with climate change. In each of these cases there were calls for more research and media stories that completely ignore science in favor of quotes from "industry experts." An example of how absurd these media experts have become was recently illustrated by MSNBC's video guru expert who claimed that she knew that violence isn't caused by video games and that scientists just don't know what they're talking about because they're old and don't understand the new media.
4:45 PM PT: Some responders falsely claimed that they had read within 30 minutes of this posting over a 1,000 pages of documentation and found no mention of the word causal. However, the video link to the international expert uses the word causal. The first page of the older Canadian report uses the word causal. The third page of the Report of the Media Violence Commission uses the phrase "overwhelming causal evidence" etc ... What there saying is just as false as the media reports.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a harrowing Policy Statement in November, 2009 warning its members about the health risks posed by children’s use of violent video games, and urging its members to track children’s violent media consumption and to educate parents about the games’ negative health effects.24 The Academy found that the “debate” about the effects of violent media on children “should be over,” as “consistent and significant associations” between violent media consumption and a variety of mental health problems for children and adolescents have been clearly established. These health problems include aggressive and violent behavior, bullying, desensitization to violence, fearful world views including “mean
world syndrome,” depression, and sleep disturbances.25 Social scientists concur that children’s exposure to violent media is a “socially significant” cause of later antisocial attitudes and conduct, that a substantial correlation exists between such exposure and
subsequent aggressive and/or antisocial behavior,26 and that violent video games likely pose the greatest risk to children due to their interactive and repetitive nature.27 It is a fact that interpersonal violence is now a more prevalent health risk for children, adolescents, and young adults than infectious disease, cancer, or congenital disorders.28
A leading suicide researcher is concerned about increases in suicide rates among younger Americans that may result from desensitization to violence and pain, which can be caused by playing violent video games.29 Parents of violent video game connoisseurs often express concern about the “addictive” nature of the games. Children and adolescents (as well as some adults) are known to revolve their lives around playing the games, which have been called as addictive as
cocaine:30 children become entranced in the games, play for hours without a break, and become enraged when they are interrupted.31 Childcare professionals have begun to advise parents on how to deal with children’s video game addiction,32 which can produce neurological and other health problems for children.33 In 2007, the American
Psychiatric Association issued a statement addressing the problem of children’s video game addiction and explained that an official diagnosis of “video game addiction” has been proposed for inclusion in the 2012 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).34 Research in the last year has shown similar brain activaction patterns between video game addition and drug addiction.35 In sum, numerous serious risks to children’s and adolescents’ health can result from their exposure to violence, and in particular, their consumption of violent video games.