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Violent video games – the myths and the facts

Surprising results from a new study about kids and video games.

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Scott Wallace – Staff

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True or false: Violent video games cause children to become more aggressive. Sorry, that was a trick question. Despite much bandying of statistics and loud talking by critics on both sides of the argument, the real answer is that there is no real answer – at least not one that’s been proved scientifically.

So say Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner in their new book, “Grand Theft Childhood.” “In fact, much of the information in the popular press about the effects of violent video games is wrong,” write the husband and wife team, who direct the Center for Mental Health and Media at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

That will, of course, be of tremendous comfort to concerned parents who find calculating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin simplicity itself compared with figuring out which video games, if any, to allow in their homes.

But the fact is, the research can’t be boiled down to a simple headline, however much politicians, experts, and the media might wish otherwise, say Drs. Kutner and Olson, who conducted a $1.5 million study funded by the US Department of Justice that looked at the effects of violent video games on 1,200 middle-school-age children.

That conclusion, say other experts, is what makes Kutner’s and Olson’s study so valuable.

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