Do video games lead to violence?

(CNN)The 18-year old gunman who killed nine people in Munich, Germany, on Friday was a fan of first-person shooter video games, according to reports. This detail in the unspooling story of the rampage led many to worry that violent video games may be negatively affecting their own children. What is the truth?

Both the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics take a firm stance against children and teens playing violent video games.
    Christopher Ferguson, associate professor and co-chairman of the Department of Psychology at Stetson University, supports this view. In fact, he goes so far as to suggest that violent video games may help reduce societal violence rather than increase it.
    “Basically, by keeping young males busy with things they like” — and this would include everything from playing sports and collecting stamps to playing first-person shooter video games — “you keep them off the streets and out of trouble,” he said.
    He added that newer studies “with better methods” have typically failed to find much evidence of a connection between brutal games and even minor aggressive acts, let alone violence.
    Persuasive evidence comes from an economic study published in January, which looked at violent criminal offenses in the weeks following the release of popular video games. Tracking both sales and crime rates, the authors discovered that general societal violence decreased in the weeks after the appearance of a new edition of a popular title.
    Obviously, this does not rule out longer-term effects, the authors admit. Still, they make a bid for the games offering “cathartic” effects, allowing players to safely release their aggression.
    While the debate rages on, Ferguson believes the tide has turned against linking video games to violence. There’s more skepticism these days, he said, and recently, a group of 238 scholars asked the American Psychological Association to retire its “outdated and problematic statements on video game violence.”

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    Considering the teen shooter in Munich, DeCamp said, “we need to take a lot of caution before we place the blame on any one particular thing.” Meanwhile, Ferguson noted that “almost all young males play violent video games,” and yet the majority are not committing crimes.
    Both the psychological association and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that parents take an active interest in and monitor the games played by their children. This simple bit of practical advice — and not an all-out prohibition — may be the best solution.

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