Do violent videogames make kids violent?

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by Catherine Holland

GMAZ interview by Kaley O'Kelley

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 18 at 12:40 PM

PHOENIX – More and more information is coming out about the man behind Monday’s mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. One of the thing investigators have learned is that Aaron Alexis spent up to 18 hours a day playing video games – violent ones.

He’s not alone.

Connecticut school shooter Adam Lanza.

Colorado theater shooter James Holmes.

Tucson shooter Jared Loughner.

These four men all have something in common. They’re avid gamers, and often spent hours at a time in violent fantasy worlds in which “ganking” as many bad guys as possible is the goal and there are no real-world consequences for opening fire.

Dr. Ellie Izzo, a psychologist who works primarily with children and families, sat down with 3TV’s Kaley O’Kelley to discuss the ongoing debate over violent video games and their affects on impressionable children and teens.

“It’s important to note that the research is very mixed about violent video games,” Izzo explained. “We can’t really jump to any conclusions, but what the research does show is that kids that a lot of violent video games for long periods of time tend to struggle with three typical behavior issues.”

  1. Constant state of hyperarousal; They’re always ready to react
  2. Isolation/Decreased positive social behavior; They’re not anchored in community activities, team sports or family time
  3. Hostile expectations; They’re waiting to be defensive

Izzo said video games can’t be directly blamed for a person’s actions.

“If there’s balance in a child’s life – if they have other connections, other community, other activities -- … there’s no direct evidence [of a deleterious effect].

Izzo says there are things parents can do to make sure their kids have that balance.

  1. Talk positively about limiting time spent playing games; Avoid power struggles
  2. Help them cope with unpleasant feelings that come with not playing
  3. Get in the game yourself; Play alongside your kids

For more information or to contact Izzo, visit VicariousTrauma.com.

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