Researchers have warned that children who frequently play violent video games start to think and act more aggressively regardless of age, gender or culture. Also Read - Facebook's FB Gaming Press Start virtual event announced: First ever event for gamers in India
Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University and lead author of the study, said that it is really no different than learning math or to play the piano. Also Read - 40 percent gamers are spending Rs 230 a month on mobile games: Report
Gentile explained that if you practice over and over, you have that knowledge in your head and the fact that you haven’t played the piano in years doesn’t mean you can’t still sit down and play something. Also Read - Logitech G335 wired gaming headset review: Light and comfortable
It’s the same with violent games – you practice being vigilant for enemies, practice thinking that it’s acceptable to respond aggressively to provocation, and practice becoming desensitized to the consequences of violence, Gentile said.
When provoked at home, school or in other situations, children will react much like they do when playing a violent video game.
Craig Anderson, co-author of the report, said that violent video games model physical aggression and they also reward players for being alert to hostile intentions and for using aggressive behavior to solve conflicts.
“Practicing such aggressive thinking in these games improves the ability of the players to think aggressively. In turn, this habitual aggressive thinking increases their aggressiveness in real life,” he said.
The study followed more than 3,000 children in third, fourth, seventh and eighth grades for three years.
Researchers collected data each year to track the amount of time spent playing video games, the violent content of the game and changes in a child’s behavior. The length and size of the study made it possible for researchers to detect and test even small effects.
Boys reported doing more physically aggressive behaviors and spending more time playing violent games than girls. However, even when researchers controlled for gender, the violent video game effects on behavior were the same for girls and boys.
To test whether violent games had a greater effect on children who were more aggressive, researchers compared children with high and low levels of aggression. Much like gender, they did not find a significant difference in terms of the effect from violent games.
The study is published in JAMA Pediatrics.