A new study which appears to have the support of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concludes that media violence – including video game violence – is an emerging public health threat second only to smoking tobacco.
Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study by L. Rowell Huesmann (left) of the University of Michigan holds that consuming media violence adds a significant risk that the viewer will act aggressively in both the short and long term.
In conducting his research, Huesmann reviewed over 50 years of data on exposure to various forms of media violence, including TV, film, video game and the Internet. Huesmann, a senior research scientist at Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, told Science Daily:
The research clearly shows that exposure to virtual violence increases the risk that both children and adults will behave aggressively… More than 60 percent of television programs contain some violence and about 40 percent of those contain heavy violence.
Children are also spending an increasingly large amount of time playing video games, most of which contain violence. Video game units are now present in 83 percent of homes with children.
Based on their joint research, Huesmann and colleague Brad Bushman believe that media violence significantly elevates the chance that children and adults will exhibit aggressive behavior. How significant is the risk? According to Huesmann:
Exposure to violent electronic media has a larger effect than all but one other well-known threat to public health. The only effect slightly larger than the effect of media violence on aggression is that of cigarette smoking on lung cancer.
Our lives are saturated by the mass media, and for better or worse, violent media are having a particularly detrimental effect on the well-being of children.
As with many other public health threats, not every child who is exposed to this threat will acquire the affliction of violent behavior. But that does not diminish the need to address the threat — as a society and as parents by trying to control children’s exposure to violent media to the extent that we can.