Do Violent Media Games Really Contribute to Youth Violence?
In his review of two important books on the influence of media games on violence, Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do and Media Violence and Aggression: Science and Ideology, Christopher Ferguson is critical of media violence reports by both the American Psychological Association and the American Pediatrics Association, arguing "we have merely replaced the folk-devils of the past with new folk-devils—television and particularly video games in recent decades. As happened generations ago, obliging social scientists who are part of the ‘elder’ establishment produce ‘research’ in support of these panics," and that "the pages and pages of theory, both in discussing antimedia theory and alternative philosophical views, can leave one shaking one's head, ruing psychology's love of theory over substance. Indeed, antimedia theories become simultaneously so complex and illusory that they become impossible to falsify, which is why statements suggesting that the precipitous decline in violence in the United States and other nations is unimportant are treated seriously rather than as the pseudoscience that they are."
Other respected scholars such as Craig Anderson at the Iowa State University’s Center for the Study of Violence disagree, and an APA resolution clearly suggests, "[P]laying violent video games may increase aggressive thoughts and aggressive behaviors in children, youth, and young adults."
Is the jury still out on the effects of media violence on children, or do the two books reviewed last week put the issue to rest?
By Christopher Ferguson
PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(35)