According to a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics children that are exposed to virtual violence are more likely to be violent in the real world. The study urges lawmakers to regulate what kids see and play on the screen and lists a set of recommendations to parents and the government.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and its Board of Directors continue to be concerned about what children see on TV, the big screen, and video games and how the violence they observed affects their well-being.

Many studies, such as those performed by the APA (American Psychological Association), have found that video games do cause increased levels of aggression. Credit: The Odyssey Online

According to the study preamble, a 1998 report estimated that the typical child would have seen 8 thousand killings and 100 thousand different acts of violence on TV before the kid could reach middle school. The study did not include movie theaters nor video games, only T.V.

A real world experiment that proves the link between virtual violence with the real-world violence has not been conducted. The document published online in the Pediatrics journal says that such study will never be undertaken because inducing and observing actual violence by manipulating kids, or any subjects would be unethical.

This is why violence related studies are held in laboratories, and it is used other kinds of violence to prove the theory. In the study subjects were randomly assigned to play violent or nonviolent video games and after playing, they were asked to make a person uncomfortable using and unpleasant sound -fingernails scratching on a blackboard, dentist drills, fire alarms- at a decibel of their choice to inflict pain to the other person.

The results showed that the children that played a violent video game made the higher level sounds and for a longer period.

The study says although kids do not have easy access to a pain inflicting device, there is no reason to believe that the tendency to inflict pain would be less different outside the laboratory, in a real scenario.

More experimental linkages between virtual violence and real-world aggression have been found, and the authors use as an example a recent experiment. The study was conducted in the real world and did not involve violence. Instead, parents were motivated to change their children’s media diet substituting violent sights for prosocial programs. The results showed a decrease in aggression in those children and they improve their overall behavior.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics does not give up and restates the need for a media diet to protect the children.

In spite of the undeniable evidence collected through years,  which explains the relation between violence and more aggressive behavior, there has been little public action to prevent children to be exposed to virtual violence. The study mentions the only legislative case that tried to regulate violence for kids in the U.S. It happened in California and the state made it illegal to sell video games labeled for mature audiences to minors. But the legal action was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

At the end of the paper, the Academy recommends to pediatricians to consider to make a media diet an essential part of children examinations and to parents to regulate what their children watch and play. It also encourages doctors to participate with the entertainment industry to create more shows and games centered on non-violent behavior, to teach children of all ages a different way to behave.

The Academy urges lawmakers to promote legislation to provide parents and children more accurate information about the content showed in TV, movies, and video games. And for the federal government, the pediatricians ask to oversee the development of a “parent-centric” rating system rather than relying on industry to do so.   

Source: Pediatrics