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Do violent video games lead to real violence?

  • Akron Beacon Journal
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at 10:29 p.m.

— Since the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., mental health experts, the media, bereavement counselors, grieving parents and others have wondered what wickedness lurked in the mind of Adam Lanza.

One of the issues at the forefront is whether violent video games, to which the 20-year-old was reportedly addicted, could be the problem. But could the games alone have caused Lanza to become so out of control that they made him kill those children and seven adults, including his mother? Or was it something much more sinister?

“When someone goes and shoots like that … there’s mental illness and then there’s evil,” offered Kathy Royer, clinical nurse specialist at 4KidHelp — Center for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in North Canton, Ohio. “When it comes to video games, there is some research that says … kids playing video games can lead to aggressive behaviors.”

But assigning blame solely to video games is a mistake, Royer said.

“Based on my own research … some of the information is more conclusive that it’s family issues — and I hold to that,” she continued.

“Nothing ever is just one thing. It’s always a combination of things.”

In-depth, evidence-based research about the effects of violent video games is rare. Still, the Dayton Daily News reported recently that a new Ohio State University study shows that playing violent video games can make people more aggressive over time, though it’s impossible to link such games to violent criminal behavior like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Last month, President Obama asked for $10 million to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to research the causes of gun violence, specifying “research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds.”

And Vice President Joe Biden said during a “PBS News Hour” “Fireside Hangout” on Google Plus that there is no hard data to prove that excessively violent video games can cause people to engage in behavior that is anti-social, including using guns.

“Let the CDC, let the National Institute of Health, let these people go out and look at the pathology that’s behind this — if there is a pathology related to gun violence. We shouldn’t be afraid of the facts,” Biden said.

Saying all of that though, in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban the sale or rental of super-violent games — noting it violated young people’s First Amendment rights and left it up to parents and the gaming industry to determine what children could purchase.

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