A recent study sought to discover whether or not playing violent video games can be linked to physical aggression in youngsters and, according to lead author Jay Hull, the answer is "yes." Hull admits that this study does not answer the question of whether or not playing violent video games actually causes violent behavior but, according to his findings, there's definitely a small link between people who play violent video games and then go on to engage in risky behavior.
The study, originally published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and reported on by USA Today, actually draws from 24 individual studies conducted around the world. Participants include the United States, Japan, Germany and Canada, with 17,000 individuals from the ages of nine to 19 involved. These studies were conducted at various times throughout a seven-year period, from 2010 to 2017.
At its most basic level, Hull's study states that there is a perceivable connection between adolescents who play violent video games and those who act more aggressively. Examples of this more risky behavior include everything from reckless driving and heavy drinking to unsafe sex and striking an individual who is not a family member. According to Hull, this connection is "relatively small, but statistically reliable." Games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto were specifically cited, as well as the original Doom series. Hull said he actually first became interested in studying this possible phenomenon when he learned that the individuals responsible for the Columbine school shooting played Doom.
Hull clarifies that his study does not conclude that playing violent video games "causes" a person to become more violent. As he notes in the report, it's possible these people were simply predisposed to be violent individuals and, therefore, were also drawn to more violent forms of entertainment, including violent games. However, either way, he states that parents should be concerned if their youngsters are playing a lot of violent games, as the end result is the same. As Hull puts it, whether it is because of the games or the individual's existing mental state, they may have a "warped sense of right or wrong," which probably means it's time for some in-depth parenting.
The question concerning a link between violent games and violent behavior has been ongoing for decades now, but, so far, results have been inconclusive. Even Hull admits that the link his own study found is small and, again, a plethora of other factors should be considered in these types of situations.
Whether or not a link exists, the most practical step concerned parents can consider is paying attention to what their kids are playing and becoming familiar with the ESRB rating system. If a game is rated "M for Mature," it's probably not the kind of thing a 13-year-old should be playing.